Last week Ryan Gately turned 8 years old. As I’m inclined to do on my own birthday I took the time to reflect on what my team and I have achieved so far as well as the lessons I have learned along the way. When it comes to our achievements what I’m most proud of is the strength of relationships we have built. Among our clients, service providers, alliance partners and industry colleagues are fantastic people who we love working with. The hearty laughing we have enjoyed with these people over the years is what stands out in my mind most.
When Lisa Ryan and I opened the doors of Ryan Gately on Monday 3rd July 2006 we had no experience. Of course we were both experienced HR professionals but neither one of us had ever worked in an advisory business let alone built one. All we had was a picture in our minds of what we wanted to create and the belief that it could be done. A learning curve far steeper than we imagined lay ahead of us. Five of the most powerful lessons I have learned since that first day in business are the subject of this blog.
1. It’s OK being right here right now
For many years I was in a hurry. I had a sense of urgency that drove me to work day and night to push ahead. Never satisfied with what I had already achieved, I burned the candle at both ends and constantly felt I needed to rush to catch up (with what or who I’m still not sure). What I’ve learned is it’s perfectly OK to be where I am right now. When we obsess about what lays ahead we look past where we are now and miss the opportunity to truly appreciate and enjoy what we have already achieved. Cementing the lessons we take from each experience is further reason to slow down and take one step at a time.
2. Balance really does matter
It’s easy to say we need balance in life, achieving that when working hard to build a business or career isn’t quite so easy. For many years I told myself I just needed to dig deep, work hard and eventually I’d reach a point when I’d be able to rest. What I didn’t account for was my tendency to constantly dream up new ideas and my passion to turn them into reality. The ‘day of rest’ never arrived and thanks to a serious case of burnt out I was forced to rethink my approach. I’ve learned that balance is a choice and it’s entirely up to me to make it happen. I now more often choose to stop, recharge and allow myself time to do other things beyond work that energise my spirit.
3. Vision must shift and evolve
While on day 1 Lisa and I believed we knew what we wanted to create our vision quickly shifted and expanded. Each day has brought fresh insights, new ideas and lesson learned that have contributed to our ever-evolving view of who we are and who we want to become. We have worked hard to maintain clarity at every step along the way. Our ability to sell our services, influence our client’s expectations and deliver on our promises has depended on it. But so too has our ability to grow and evolve as a business. Constantly challenging our thinking and fine-tuning our approach has been essential to our success.
4. Know when to walk away
Among the most difficult decisions I’ve learned to make is to walk away from some opportunities. While it can be tempting to take on every project that comes along I’ve learned that not all business is good business to win. Experience has taught us that choosing which organisations we work with and the types of work we agree to do serves both our clients and us well. There are lots of things we are capable of doing but we now ask ourselves is it aligned with what we want to do? Are we the best people to do it and therefore will we deliver to the standard we expect from ourselves? We also consider how opportunities will impact our ability to deliver on other commitments we have made and objectives we have set.
As a ‘big picture’ person dreaming up new ideas comes easily. What isn’t quite so innate to my character is putting a plan in place and executing with discipline. A number of years ago I felt stuck on the hamster wheel of life – I was running hard to deliver services but didn’t feel like I was moving forward. Forging the time to create a clear plan, set priorities and drive projects within my own business was key to moving past that point. Being focused allows me to avoid distractions and decide how I invest my time and energy each day.
Above all else I’ve learned that passion fuels success. Unless we are truly committed to what we are striving to achieve ‘staying the course’ can be tough. When things have been at their most difficult it has been my burning desire to make a difference that has kept me going. My belief that thriving people will lead to thriving business and ultimately a thriving world underpins everything I do. I’m immensely grateful to have a team who share in this belief and work just as hard to make a positive contribution to the world through Ryan Gately.