Allow me toot my own horn ever so slightly by letting you know that on May 7, at the recent Saskatchewan Women Entrepreneurs’ Annual Provincial Conference, I was honored by being named Business Of The Year for 2009 in the Existing Business category.
The award is presented annually to a woman entrepreneur who has been in business for more than three years and who has exhibited the following criteria:
-expanded her business and contributed to the economy
-changed, grown and refocused in response to emerging trends
-shown long term financial viability and profitability
-contributed to entrepreneurship in the community
It was a delight to be recognized in the company of my family and business peers- a very validating and encouraging experience. The Lou Chrones painting that I received will hold a place of honor in my office.
My congratulations to other award winners honored the same evening: Kim Weimer of Fastener Warehouse and Rachel Mielke of Hillberg and Berk.
If you are interested in the comments I made on receiving the award, read on.
Thank you to Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan for sponsoring this award and recognizing business excellence. There are many accomplished women who are equally deserving of this recognition. I am thankful to the committee for selecting me and my business for this honor, and am delighted to take a turn in the spotlight.
I’d also like to thank those individuals – colleagues and clients – who provided letters of support for my nomination – and the many clients who have repeatedly put their faith in me and continued to call on my services over the years.
It’s been 23 years since I first hung out my ‘Open For Business’ shingle, and it still thrills me to run into past clients who recall my earlier work and can cite ideas and strategies I shared that made a difference then and continue to make a difference now in their work and their lives.
As I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to say this evening, I’ve been influenced by Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book, Outliers. Some of you may be familiar with it. In his research, Gladwell set out to discover what contributed to the achievements of some of the world’s most successful individuals – people like Bill Gates, the Beatles, world class athletes, and so on.
As you might guess, each person had some innate ability or talent at the core of their success. But beyond that, there were two other contributors. First was the opportunity to practice their craft (Gladwell figures that it takes some 10,000 hours of practice to develop world class skills). Second was a set of fortunate circumstances that made their achievements possible – when they were born, where they grew up, access to people, ideas or resources, family and cultural heritage.
In thinking about what has contributed to whatever success I’ve achieved as an entrepreneur, a number of things become clear. First and foremost, I was shaped by having grown up the eldest of six girls on a farm in rural Saskatchewan. I was raised with the expectation of taking responsibility and acting independently.
My Dad, Norman, was a first class model of industry, hard work and the practical expressions of caring. From my Mom, Ruth, I learned about creativity and connection – how to make things, and make things happen in concert with others.
From both of them I learned the value of adaptability and sustainability – of adjusting to changing conditions and committing for the long haul. They have been married for over 55 years, and this year the land they have farmed their entire life will be recognized as a Century Farm, having been in our family for 100 years.
Two elements of my rural roots (the Western Producer and the 4-H program) allowed me to practice what would turn out to be my craft: writing and speaking.
It was in the YC Pages of the good old Western Producer, where I first saw my words and name in print – and fell in love with the idea of writing and publishing. Our local 4-H club and later provincial activities provided plenty of experience in standing in front of groups and speaking my mind.
As for other fortunate circumstances, I had the good fortune to be born in the early 1950s – which meant by the time I reached my teen and young adult years, doors were opening for women in the workplace. Being part of the leading edge of the baby boomers meant that many others shared my struggles to cope with roles of wife, mother, and career person. It also made for a ready market for programs that I would later put together and deliver as part of my business.
I’ve had the good fortune to marry well – and to be married to the same man, David, for 35 years. He has been my greatest cheerleader and an unwavering supporter of my business. Not only does he cook (which literally unchains me from kitchen duty), but Dave has one of the best analytical minds around (a creative right brained type like me needs that critical counterpoint to keep my feet on the ground).
I’ve had the good fortune to become a mother to two wonderful girls, Tristan and Lindsay. Lindsay is here with me tonight. It was actually the arrival of our daughters and my subsequent need for greater flexibility that triggered my decision to start my own business. And operating my business from home made it possible for me to partner work and parenthood in a more satisfying, less stressful way.
All this is to say, that talent and hard work alone would never have brought me to this place, without my rural roots, my family, and the many doors that opened along the way.
Each one of you have your own compelling stories (talents, abilities, and fortunate circumstances), but the one thing we share in common is that we live here in this great province of Saskatchewan.
Over the years, many people have described it as a handicap or a disadvantage to have grown up in a place like Saskatchewan. I’ve been repeatedly teased by some of my out of province clients about being based in Saskatoon: “Anybody left there? Did you turn out the lights when you crossed the border? Why are you still there?” It’s as if there’s something desperately wrong with someone who can’t cut themselves free from Saskatchewan!
I usually silence them by responding I’m still here because Saskatchewan needs me. They have no response to that. But what I have learned to be equally true is that I need Saskatchewan. I am proud of this place we are from – and of the groundedness, caring, and imaginative entrepreneurial spirit we bring to the world.
The truth of the matter is that we succeed – not in spite of being from Saskatchewan – but because we are from Saskatchewan.
Thank you, again, for this honor, and for its legacy: a validation of the journey so far and encouragement for the road that lies ahead.