Thursday, December 17, 2009

#28 Cold Hard Cash

December 17th 2009

Cold Hard Cash

It’s interesting what many of us think we would do for cold hard cash. Cash seems to make so many of our problems go away. We imagine how much bigger our house would be, what kind of car we would drive, and the new clothes we would wear. However, I think that many of us overestimate just exactly what we would do for cold hard cash.

I was faced with this situation very early on in my career, my first real job in fact. I was lucky to get a job at the time and the first job I did get was working as a junior trader for one of the big equity traders at an investment bank in Los Angeles. I had never wanted to work in finance before, but trading seemed like an exciting and adrenalin filled world. Oh how wrong I was. Now don’t get me wrong. There are numerous types of trading that are adrenalin filled, just not the kind I was doing. We traded on behalf of large fund managers, so basically all we did was execute the trades, which came to us in the quantities of hundreds of thousands, and took commission off the back of that.

I had to be at the office at 2:30 AM everyday as we were trading on New York hours. Looking around the office, it was difficult not to notice that I was one of 2 females and the youngest by a few years. It was an opportunity that many would give a lot for. A good 80% of the guys had been there their entire careers and were now in the 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s. They took home anywhere from $1m to $3m upwards each year in salary and while those are no hedge fund numbers, that is still serious cash. The more junior guys in the office still did well and made well into the 6 figures. I knew at 22 that by 30 I would be in a position where I could be making millions each year. Maybe because I was so young, the figures didn’t seem real. But I also knew that I would be trading in my 20’s for money. Also, my 30’s and part of my 40’s. That was when I first discovered that I am not that motivated just by cold hard cash.

It’s an interesting discovery as I had always thought I was money motivated and do think I am to a certain extent. But there I was, 6 months into a job that I hated, working hours that gave me zits for the first time in my life and I was miserable. My roommate was coming in from a night out as I was leaving for work. I remember making the decision based on the weight of my unhappiness and knowing that no amount of money was worth it. I was 22, the world was supposed to be my oyster, I would figure out other ways to make money and I did.
I remember telling my parents, who were not happy. There were very proud that I had got a good job with the prospects of a successful career and they felt that 6 months was not enough time for me to make a decision. But sometimes you know you are right and that is it. I thought, how many more months do I have to be unhappy to know that I am unhappy? Turned out, 0 more months. But the reason I bring this up is that I don’t know many people who would trade in their happiness, sanity and the most precious thing of all; their health for money. (Did I mention I had taken to crying at the drop of a hat?) Many people may think they would, but that is just their greed talking. Of course, many people do trade these things in every day for money, but to what is extent? I always remain very grateful I got to experience that very early on in my career as it forced me to learn that there is a lot I won’t do for money. I want the cold hard cash to be the by product, not the main gig.

Perhaps I think this way because I have always lived in relative comfort but I don’t think so. I was told from a young age that I could do anything I wanted if I put my mind to it and even with 30 knocking at the door, I still truly believe that. That is why I don’t think, even if I grew up impoverished, that I would sacrifice all that is important to me for money. Somehow cold hard cash is just not enough.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

9-5 Outside the City Walls

Hi everyone,

This week's Ride is my article in Here is the City.

The Ride will continue next week as usual. Hope you enjoy and as always feel free to comment either on the HITC website or here.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Class of 2009 :: A Class Education #27

Class of 2009 :: A Class Education

December 3rd 2009

The topic this week is more of an observation rather than much food for thought, but it’s one that I find fascinating. Having lived in the UK now for 6 years, I have had the unique opportunity to observe and take part in its cultures and traditions as a foreigner. One of the most intriguing aspects of the UK, is their class system. The class system in this country is as English as the Ol’ Baked Bean herself (that is cockney for Queen for all the Americans gotta love a bit of cockney!). It’s funny, as before I came to live here I didn’t really know anything about it. Even visiting the UK, it’s not something that I feel that you can really understand until you spend a lot of time here. So today I am going to cover some of the differences in the UK and US class systems.

First off, the US doesn’t really have a class system. Well nothing on the level of over here. We have a black President whose father was from Kenya, which is a clear and obvious example of the American dream being alive and well. Also, as the States are not even 300 years old one could make the argument that the entire country is nouveau riche. The closest thing that we have to a class system probably exists on the East Coast and only because that side of the country was settled first. But again, comparing it to the UK class system is like comparing a white Alba truffle to black truffle oil... there really is no comparison.

High school vs Public school. First off, you have to get your head around the lingo. Public school in England is not what our public schools are, which are called “state schools” over here. Public school here is a private, usually boarding school. The public school you go to ends up being much more important than where you go to university (unless you attend Oxford or Cambridge). Over here their public schools are like our Ivy Leagues, the kids you meet and relationships you build presumably will be ones that help you out later on in your career and life. An example of a public school with a large amount of sway may be a school like Eton or Harrow. Both of these schools produce a startling number of MP’s (Members of Parliament). Now in the States, very few people care about where you went to high school or even if it was public (state) or private. The east coast is an exception with a larger number of kids going to boarding school there. However, going to a good boarding school is only to help you get into a top university later on, as our systems places a much greater deal on where you attend college. Where I am from, if you went to boarding school it was not necessarily a positive thing. You were either “sent away” because you were a problem child or in some worse cases you were sent away to military school. Either way, going away to a boarding school was rarely a good thing. So it is very opposite to over here.

Another opposite in the UK class and US class systems are found in their choice of vehicle. Now assuming we are calling the wealthy in the US the upper class, their taste in vehicle will be extravagant and certainly expensive. Americans spend a great deal of time in their cars and there is also a lot of pride placed on what car you drive. An upper class American may drive a Range Rover, Bentley, Mercedes, BMW or even a Ferrari. You would not be caught dead in a beat up old VW. In all honesty, you probably wouldn’t even be caught dead in a last series Merc or Range Rover. A truly posh and upper class English person would rather die than be caught driving around in a Ferrari or new Bentley (an older inherited one maybe). Many of the upper class over here drive around in 10 year old VW Golfs, or old Land Rovers if they are on their estate in the country. Posh people would consider a brand new Range Rover déclassé and would never want to be confused with a footballer’s wife. So in the UK crap old Golf = posh person and new Range Rover = Coleen Rooney. In the USA crap old Golf = not enough money to buy a new Golf and new Range Rover = wealthy to moderately wealthy and likes driving a big nice car.

On to the accent. This one I love. It has taken me years to fully understand all of the accents and dialects over here and there are still some like the Liverpudlian accent, which I struggle with. What I find amazing is that 2 people can grow up within 1 mile of each other and have completely different accents. Now an accent you cannot hide. You cannot ever get away from it and it will always belie your true roots. If you wish to be accepted into the upper echelons of British society, it will be incredibly difficult if not impossible without the right accent. Now for the Americans to understand this, a posh accent is someone who speaks like one of the Royal family, not someone whose accent is like Simon Cowell’s or David Beckham’s. So even though Simon and David are hugely successful worldwide, both are self made and both are at the top of their respective industries, neither will ever be accepted into certain circles back home. Why? Because their accent belies their background and breeding and they will never be posh, regardless of Beckham’s wife’s nickname.

I could really go on forever on this one, from what people wear to where they holiday. Even something as simple as a watch could give your class away over here. But I wouldn’t ever want to change the English class system. Why? Because although it’s very outdated, it’s a large part of the culture and tradition of the country. If people don’t come from a certain background, it doesn’t matter in the real world. The American dream is not just alive in America, but certainly exists over here where there are a huge amount of self made people. I can think of so many more opposites over here from double barreled names to the armed forces. But one thing rings clear, although the US and the UK may be very close politically the 2 countries remain a world apart culturually and the world is the better for it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Want vs. Need #26

November 25th 2009

Want vs. Need

It’s interesting looking at these 2 driving aspects as they seem to flow in and out of my life as I get older. When I first moved to London, I was very much motivated by need. I needed a place to live, I needed a visa to get a job, I needed a job in order to stay, etc. That being said, I didn’t need to be in London, but I wanted to be here, badly. During my first few years in recruitment, the need was replaced by want. I wanted to be the top biller, I wanted to buy a new watch, I wanted to be good at what I did. Need then slips back into the picture as I got a bit more mature and realised I needed job satisfaction.

When you are learning about what motivates people, the stick versus carrot theory always comes up. People either move toward something (carrot) or away from something (stick). Depending on what they are, is how you push and motivate them. But as always, things are never that simple. I have now had over a month off to let the dust settle and really look at where I am in my life. Sometimes I am proud and happy and other times I feel a bit behind. I also feel as though I am at a stage where the want and the need are very blurry. I clearly want to move back to California, as I don’t necessarily need to. I could’ve continued on with my life here, however, I knew that I needed this major change.

I am also interested in analyzing the wants vs. need in the highly successful people that run much of the business world. It would seem that in the early days of a business, need is often the driving factor. Perhaps you have small children and need to provide a certain life for them. Or maybe you need funding to even get the business off the ground. Obviously desire will be driving everything in those early days, but I bet it feels like more than desire. I bet it feels like you need to make this work, that failure is not an option. But what happens to them when it’s 5-10 years on, they are successful and don’t need to work. Pretty much every single one of the world’s top entrepreneurs have been a stage in their career where they don’t need to work. But they do. They often times work harder. So is this where the want takes over and they now have set their desires even higher? Or are they still driven by that same need as those early days and now they are just playing on a different level? The answer I am sure varies amongst each person and is probably very personal.

The reason I bring it up now as I am struggling with my own wants and needs and which one seems to prevail in motivating me. I am a tricky one to motivate and always have been. I am so polarizing in my all or nothing approach to life that it’s hindered me along the way as much as it has helped me. My Dad has always told me “Corre, life is about moderation, everything in moderation.” It’s a lesson that I struggle with to this day. When I am on, I am on fire. When I am interested in something, I am voracious. When I want something and I mean really want something, I get it. The list of things in life I have wanted that I have not gotten is short indeed. Why? Because when the scales do tip, and the want turns into a need for me, I stop at nothing to get it. But if the want is only a moderate want, then I do just enough to get by, with enough high points and successes dotted in that I don’t seem like a complete failure. Believe me this is not easy to admit, but it’s true.

So as I approach 30, approach a new career, what will I feel I need going forward? It’s a strange concept as “need” is so relative. I used to be really motivated by my need to win and I still am. But I no longer feel as though I need to prove myself. London was only about proving myself to myself anyway if I am really honest. So while I am sure I will always struggle with my want vs need, I think it will only get more interesting as I get older and my responsibilities in life get greater. I am going to enjoy these last few years of want for what they are worth because one day I will have a family, and I can only imagine that my wants will become second to others needs which is a concept that, at least right now, is still very foreign.

Also, don't forget to check out Whiskey, Women and Gold in Here is the City, if you haven't already.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Long Live The Ride # 25

Long Live The Ride

November 18th, 2009

As last week’s article certainly divided many people and brought up many relevant topics, I thought I would do an add on article. English Roses clearly upset many people and I am not sure why. The Ride is my opinion and my opinion only. Much of it is meant to be taken with a grain of salt as any opinion should. I understand that many people who read it may not know me personally and thus my style of writing and choice of words probably come off as appalling and shocking rather than funny and banterish, which is how they really are in real life. But again, I don’t really understand why people got so upset. When we bring up exceptional women, of which there are numerous in the UK, we call them exceptional for a reason. I bet if asked, many of them do feel lonely at the top and would agree that they are times in which they feel somewhat isolated by their achievements.

When Jeremy Clarkson regularly announces his dislike and downright hatred for all Americans, I imagine he is referring to the gun toting, red neck, chicken fried steak eating variety whom have never set foot outside the USA. Do I, as an American living in London, feel insulted and think that he is referring to me? No. Why? Because I don’t fit his description of the typical American and thus must be the exception and not the rule. This is why I do not understand so many people getting so upset. If you do not fit the description of my version of a typical English girl, then you are probably not the rule in this case.

But the whole backlash to the article brings up a much more interesting topic altogether. A friend of mine, BF, who has spent a lot of time in the States but was raised here, brought up this point. She said that “different cultures breed diverse cultural differences, values and expectations” therefore it was near on impossible to apply the same set of rules universally to all women across the world. I must say that I agree. It doesn’t mean that I take back anything in last week’s article, because I don’t. But one of the benefits of writing these, is that it encourages discussion and allows me to see things from other peoples’ points of view as well. I think that if I look at successful women in the work place there will be a commonality across many of them, regardless of background. But I think their reasons for becoming successful and how they define their success will be fundamentally different across different cultures.

Being American, we like everything big, shiny and new. The American dream is still very much alive and well and I had no understanding of the class system that is very much engrained into the UK culture, until I arrived here. I did grow up in exceptional circumstances and do understand that. However, I also know many people who did not grow up with that safety net, who are incredibly successful and living their own American dream. Who is to say that one success is better than the other? Does someone with more opportunity’s success mean less because of their access to the opportunity? The book The Outliers, which I have mentioned before in this blog, is a good example of this. Access to opportunity is important in creating success and sometimes more important that we may want to let on. But does that mean we should diminish Bill Gates’ success? I would guess probably not is the majority opinion.

But, other than the class system, I would say that we gauge success in the UK very similarly as to how it’s done in the US. When we are reading about the great women of the UK, we are mainly reading about ones who are commercially successful or powerful. There will be the few who are heads of charities or unions or schools, but again many of those wield a large amount of power and influence over people and resources. So while I do believe that success is the Western world is based on similar criteria, I also now acknowledge that apart from the Western world, success can take on a very different meaning indeed and one that probably has less to do with money.

I would like to thank everyone who commented on last week’s article and especially those who took the time to form a valued and articulate opinion. I do think that many of the points brought up are incredibly interesting and ones that I had not seen until then. I do hope this week, that if anyone does have a comment that they will post under their name. It’s just not as much fun having a discussion with “Anonymous”. I do not mind the criticism or any opposing points of view, although being so viciously attacked was initially hard to take. In fact, I believe it makes everything that much more interesting. But, I don’t believe in blindly being attacked for my thoughts. I think it’s unfair and cowardly. I don’t write The Ride seeking mass approval or acceptance. I write it because I enjoy it. If you agree with it or don’t is up to you and will probably go a long way in whether you still continue to read it. But for those of you who continue to read this, I say thank you. These next 5 months while I am in between careers will mean that the topics I tackle will be less to do with work and more to do with life and I how view things. So long live The Ride.

Also, don't forget to check out Whiskey, Women and Gold in Here is the City, if you haven't already.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Do I Dare

Whiskey, Women and Gold

After the flurry of comments, both good and let's not kid ourselves, mostly bad I was a bit hesitant to put this out there so quickly.

But I didn't realise it had already been published on Here is the City, so although I only posted here yesterday, here is a few more musings from me.

The article is in the Life section of Here is the City

Please click below for Whiskey, Women and Gold

I do hope that you enjoy it and as always the Comments post is open for business!

Please note that HITC have yet to update my Profile and I am no longer MD of the Harbor Group. They are in the midst of changing it now. Thank you.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

# 24 English Roses

English Roses

November 12th 2009

As I near my 6 year anniversary here and start reminiscing about my time in London, I find it quite funny and not just a little bit sad that most of my girlfriends are American. Now I am not one to have many real friends and my girlfriends are even fewer and far between. This is not because I am some kind of loner loser, it’s simply that I don’t usually like 95% of all the people that I meet. So aside from 2 English girls (H and C), and friends who I have worked with, I really only have 1 English girlfriend whom I have anything in common with and could sit and talk with for hours.

Why is this? Well I am pretty sure our friendship arises from the fact that she is a Super Jew. Her Super Jew status means that engrained into her psyche is drive, ambition, intelligence, graft and the desire to be incredibly successful at what she does. Now I have a number of American girlfriends who I could be describing. Out of my friends from school, I feel like a bit of a loser for not going onto to get an MBA. My American girlfriends at home are impressive to say the least, both from California and my friends from Brown. My Yank girlfriends in London, whom I would never have made it 6 years without, scream ambition and success. One practically runs Gap Europe and gets promoted every 6 months and the other is one of the top sales women in the City. Both make me look like the small fish in the big ocean that I am.

So living in a big city like London you would think that there would be just as many, if not more, formidable women. But there are not. Sophie the Super Jew, is one of the only ones that I have come across who would be able to rival the girls back home. For 6 years I have been trying to find out why this is and I still have no idea. Strangely enough, neither does Sophie. Most of the time I feel as though the girls I meet with over here are more interested in their other halves career than their own. I still can’t get over the fact that when polling 16 year old girls in the UK, an overwhelming percentage of them wish to follow in Jordan’s footsteps and be a ‘glamour model.’ For the Americans, a ‘glamour model’ is a topless model and this would be tantamount to young girls all over the country wanting to follow Pamela Anderson’s footsteps, who by the way now lives in a trailer and is doing reality TV with ex-Eastenders Z list actor. Hmmm... maybe not the best choice of a long term career.

But those are the facts. If they are not wishing to be glamour models then they want to bag a PA job in the City, so that they have a chance at marrying a banker. Now I am not saying that Newport Beach doesn’t have its fair share of gold-diggers, but they don’t breed them this young back home. Here they are bred practically from birth. I bring it up because it makes me think about how my career has turned out here, constantly being one of the only, if not the only girl in the office. One of the reasons that I think I have had so much success in London is because it’s about 50 years behind the US in terms of women in the business place. Being a foreigner and an American to boot, they simply didn’t know what to do with someone like me so I ended up getting my way 99% of the time. With such little female competition, climbing the corporate ladder was much easier to do over here than it would’ve been in the States. Again, I just don’t understand why. Why there are not more Sophie’s or Nadia’s?

Obviously this opinion is just that, an opinion and a sweeping generalisation. However, I have found this to be the case throughout numerous groups of friends that I know. Most of the girls that I have worked with and hired have tended to be foreigners as well, hailing from New Zealand, eastern Europe and China. They just seem to breed them tougher outside the UK. Most of the single guys I know are also looking for foreign girlfriends. Give them a Yank, Antipodean or Canadian any day over their English Roses. Why? Having your own career, opinions and also your own hair, boobs, nails, and skin tone go a long way in these guy’s eyes. In London, where so many of the girls are fake and phony in everything down to their fake eyelashes, the Sophie’s of this world certainly do stand out.

So while I will remain bewildered at why the girl’s world is behind over here (actually this is a discussion I have had numerous times with many people and I think it all stems from the lack of sports infrastructure available to young girls) I am grateful for the few girlfriends I have made and appreciate that unique opportunity that I have had in forging a career in what is most certainly still a man’s world.

So thank you Sterling, Megan, Clare B, Harriett, Clare E, Nadia and Sophie R. The exception proves the rule with you guys.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

#23 Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude

Also check out The Ride featured in Here is the City

November 5th 2009

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude

It should not be surprising with everything that is going on in the world that big changes are happening. You read about them daily in the newspapers, hear about them on the news, and all my friends seem to be at the age where they are either getting married or having kids, more big changes. But somehow it’s still shocking when change happens to you. I woke up one morning not too long ago and decided that my days in London were numbered. In all honesty, I had not really been thinking about what lie at home, but it turned out to be a ticking time bomb. So in the past 2 weeks, I have turned over my company to my business partner, decided to move back to Southern California next spring, and have started doing remote work for my family company. Big changes to say the least.

There are times when I don’t even think it’s all hit me yet, even though all of this change was of my own doing. I don’t think even I realised how stressed, and ultimately unhappy I was becoming. But when I see people now, even though it’s only been 2 weeks, they comment on how well I look, how happy I look, and how stress free I look. I even sound different. I now go to the gym 5 days a week, work out with a personal trainer, am aiming to lose the “Heathrow injection” (the 20 or so pounds most people gain in London), and am seriously considering giving up smoking for the first time in 6 years. I walk my dog 2 hours each day, I write every day, and I am incredibly grateful for being given this window of time to get my life back before I delve fully into my next venture.

It’s incredibly exciting but also very very scary. I have not lived in Newport Beach for over a decade and quite frankly it scares the shit out of me. I genuinely think my boyfriend, Matt, will have an easier time adjusting than I will. Why? Because it won’t be new for me. I won’t be the token novelty American from “the OC”. I know exactly what I am going back to and I also know exactly why I left in the first place. English people think I am nuts for having ever lived over here when I come from paradise. But as many of us born and bred Bubble-ites know, there is often trouble in Paradise. So why go back then? I want to go back because of the incredible opportunity that lies there. I have been given an opportunity to be a part of a long running family tradition, and I have also been given the opportunity to gain back my health, sanity, and suntan.

But this in now where the real change lies. Not in the fact that I am changing career, although I am sure I will have numerous articles on the ups and downs of working with my immediate family. But the changes and adaptations I will have to make to be able to re-integrate back into American society. Believe me it’s harder than it seems. I remember friends going abroad our Junior year of Brown and coming back Spring semester and practically being in culture shock. Coming back to the States after being in Europe proved to be more difficult than they thought. I also remember the culture shock of my first semester out in Rhode Island. I hated it. I never thought of transferring, but I was not happy. Things clearly got better and I ended up loving it, but those first 3 months when I was adjusting were miserable. Then moving back to LA and living in Santa Monica with no job and no friends. I distinctly recall my first couple of months, before my roommate and I became really close again, were lonely months indeed. But nothing will ever top off London. Moving here in January 2003, which I know now is the single most depressing month of the entire calendar year in the UK. I broke up with my boyfriend, whom I pretended I moved here for, 2 weeks after arriving and I knew 1 other person. I remember actually crying myself to sleep out of loneliness. I was heartbroken at the time, I had no friends, no family, no job and it’s dark at 3:30pm. But all of those pivotal changes are what have shaped me into who I am today. Not that I am anything major, but I am certainly proud of what I have achieved and I think deservedly so. This is why I can go into this major change with confidence. People always study trends and if big changes have always worked out in the past for me, then I see no reason why they won’t work out in the future.

I was telling a friend last night, that you make everyday decisions and business decisions with your head, and life changing pivotal decisions with your heart. It is a formula that has served me well. So changing my latitude will inevitably change my attitude or it is that I need to adjust my attitude to my new latitude? Probably a little bit of both, but the one thing I do know is that change is good, it’s certainly hard and often times it’s necessary. It’s been almost 6 years in London, and it’s time for a shake up.

#22 The Passion of Life

October 29th 2009

The Passion of Life

The word passion gets thrown around all too liberally. If I were to ask a person off the street what they are really and truly passionate about, the answers would probably take a minute or two. They might name their interests first; things like football or music and then would struggle to think of the other things. How many of us are truly passionate about what we do for a living? I would venture to say, sadly, a small percentage. Why? I think because we have been trained to believe that only the lucky few get to do what they are passionate about for a job. Either the lucky or the brave.

Often times it may depend on how money motivated someone is. Truth be told, not all passions will be able to make someone a lot of money. But then you see those people who are incredibly successful and are passionate about what they do and it makes me think. Are they passionate about publishing, fund management, recruitment, manufacturing, or are they passionate about being successful and making a good life for themselves and their families? A few will be both, but I think the vast majority will be the latter. Passion about success will take you very far. In fact, I think it can take someone as far as being passionate about both, as it is not as limiting in the occupations or industries you can be involved in. People who are passionate about being successful would most likely be successful in any industry they put their hand to.
So why are more of us not pushed in that direction from a young age? Instilling passion about being the best, or at least being very good. It seems these days’ parents and institutions don’t even want to hand out grades, lest the underachieving kids feel bad about themselves. It is completely unrealistic preparation for the real world, where clearly we are not all made equal. People tend to like and be passionate about things they are good at. If you are not good at something, chances are it’s not your favourite thing to do, especially if it’s a job. You are sitting there watching, while everyone else understands something that you don’t, everyone else seems to be doing well while you are struggling, and your boss is on your case everyday and you can see it in their eyes that they are already interviewing for your replacement. It would be very difficult to have that same excitement and passion about going to work every day if that was your situation. On the flip side, when you are good at something, then it all comes so much easier. You are naturally understanding of how things work, you instinctively know how to do something without being told 10 times, you are focussed and aware and excited to learn the next thing. Why? Because if you are good at something, it builds confidence and confidence helps build success. It allows you to make good decisions without second guessing yourself every step of the way; it makes you feel good about yourself which in turn makes other people feel good about you as well, and helps in business and life in endless ways.

So back to passion. I am passionate about a lot of things, but not all of them would I necessarily want to do for a living. I love to travel, but wouldn’t want to travel full time for a living as I am also a bit of a homebody and would miss my boyfriend, dog and friends too much. But there are others things that I am passionate about that I could do for a living. But regardless of what I do, I will still want to be the best. Or if not the best, than at least somewhere very near the top. Why? Because I have learned about myself, that ultimately I am passionate about success, winning and being good. It’s why I have been successful in school, sports, and work. Even if I was playing a game of cards with someone, I would want to win. I am not obsessive about it and have not lost friends or anything ridiculous over it, but I hate to lose. I’ve always said, “I hate losing as much as I love winning.” They are equals.

It is likely that we are all good at a number of things, which means that it should not be that difficult to find one that we like doing and that can take us where we want to go. The only thing that stands in the way is the fear of something. I’ve already tackled the art and fear of failure, but there are many fears. But if we can always go back to whatever it is we do that we are not passionate about... we know exactly what we are missing. So if that’s the case, then why not take a leap of faith? You already know that you would be missing, but still have no idea what you are actually missing. The grass isn’t always greener, it’s just a change from the grass you are walking on now.

Also check out The Ride featured in Here is the City

#21 The Bermuda Triangle

October 15th, 2009

The Bermuda Triangle

Now I know that I harp on quite about a bit about having it all, but I can't seem to help it. Call me naive, but I do want it all. When people are asked what are the 3 top things that are important to them, 9 times of our 10 these three are inevitably included; financial security (ie lots of money), family and happiness. But can we ever really have all three?

If I want to make a lot of money, and I am not talking about second home money, but fourth home and yacht type money, then how much of the other two will have to be sacrificied? It seems like it is possible to have 2 out of the 3, but having all 3 is very illusive. I could make a lot of money doing something that I love to do, and thus be happy on one front and also financially secure. But what time is left for my family? And by family I am including not only my family I have now, but also the family I want to have one day of my own. Or I could spend a lot of time with my family, raise my children without a nanny, be happy on that front and not make a huge amout of money. But I am failing to see how I actually can have all three? Many may disagree with me, but I don't think you can have them all. At least not all at once. I call these the Bermuda Triangle because they are elusive and the journey and outcome can often be dangerous.

So what do I do? Do I sacrifice my career dreams and financial goals for love and family and happiness or do I sacrifice my family life for a bucket load of money. Now for many this will be a no brainer, and I envy those. I wish this was a no brainer for me. Many would not dream of trading in their happiness and the love of their family for a killer career and the finer things in life that that career can provide, but it's not that cut and dry for me. I can honestly say I would not be happy with just 2 of the 3. I also know a lot of people and read about a lot of people who have most certainly sacrificied happiness and family for their career and money. I can look at the women, not only here in London or where I grew up in Newport Beach, who marry for money, but also all the men and (fewer) women who work 100 hours per week for a lot of cash and both lots are often far from happy. So if we know that money doesn't buy happiness, or love or friendship, but only material comfort, then why are so many of dead set on sacrificing everything for it?

Are we kidding ourselves when we dream of having it all? Do we actually know anyone who does have it all? It's all so personal anyway, it's very tough to measure. This day and age giving off the perception of having it all, is more than enough for many people, making it even more difficult to study and perhaps attempt to emulate those who do.

Do we settle for 2 of the 3? In fact, many people would probably be happy with even 1 of the 3. But I am not most people and never have been. I am going to somehow figure out how to have all 3 and I think the journey will probably reveal the secret. One always hears it's the journey, not the destination and I think there is a lot of truth in that. So we will see. I think as long as you are on the right path, with the right people and the right frame of mind, then having it all is just like your own personal Margaritaville, more a state of mind than an actual place.

#20 Dream Walking

October 8th 2009

Dream Walking

We live in a world where everything is at our finger tips. A world in which we can have all of our needs attended to with the click of a mouse, a text, phone call or a pill. We are granted immediate satisfaction if we so seek, through countless avenues. Kids are growing up faster than ever and the world is getting smaller. This makes it very difficult to be satisfied with what we have now. There is always the new iPhone about to come out, or the new BMW or a new pop up restaurant featuring one of the most celebrated chefs ever (Selfridges). If we are sick, overweight, tired or hungry there is a pill for us to pop which promises to fix us with little to no effort on our part. This seems to have created a culture of dissatisfaction and delusion.

No one seems to be happy with the now. We can only focus on the then. If I only have this, then I will be happy. If I had this amount of money, then I would be able to do what I want. If only I was thinner, then I would have an amazing boyfriend. I think we all get the picture here. But few of us are willing to look at what we have now and either be satisfied with it or work to change the path we are on which would in turn grant us all those things we lust after. Over the desk of my business coach and my finance director there is a poster that says “If you don’t like your life, you can change it.” Now, it’s very simple rhetoric but also very powerful. It often appears that we think we are helpless to our situation. A number amongst many, one drop of the ocean in the sea, etc. But the reality is very different. I’ve been reading that poster for quite a few months now and I believe it. However, I also believe that very few other people believe it.

Are we ever going to be 100% satisfied and happy with what we have, where we are, who we are, what we look like? Perhaps not, as we are constantly surrounded by images of what life could be like. But I just want to be 100% satisfied with the fact that what I am doing now is going to get me all those thens. If I am not 100% satisfied then I know that I can change my life.

For many of us, impatience sets in quickly. One of the biggest things I have had to come to terms with over the past year is that I can’t run before I can walk. I want to run. Running is fun and I enjoy life at full speed. However, I am never going to be the best runner if I haven’t bothered to learn how to walk first. I am not going to know where I am running to, if I haven’t learned how to read directions. I watch it occur in all levels of employment, from the juniors right up to director level. We are all so eager to get to the then, that we lose focus on the now. But losing focus on the now means that it is unlikely we will get to where we want to be anytime soon. This focus is much harder than it seems.

The world operates at 1,000 miles per minute and when I was 22 I could not understand why I could not start at the top of a company. My Mom had to kindly explain to me, that regardless of my education and background, the world owed me nothing and I would be starting at the bottom. When I did in fact start at the bottom of a prominent acting agency in Beverly Hills, and I mean receptionist bottom not even mail room bottom, I promptly on my 3rd day told them that I would be leaving for lunch and not returning. In my head, I did not go to Brown to answer phones for people who went to the University of Hawaii. (Yes I am an intellectual snob) But looking back, I understand now that had I been truly interested in whatever it was I was doing and there to learn, then I would’ve started anywhere just to gain the experience.

I still want to run before I can walk and I still operate at 100 miles per minute, but I have also learned some tough lessons about the pecking order in life and business. The evolution of mankind from swimming to walking on all fours to walking upright to running went that way for a reason. So that means no matter how hard we try, it will always be impossible to run before we can walk.

#19 Heart over Head

October 1st 2009

Heart over Head

We all battle our own personal inner demons and I don’t know one person who doesn’t have them. That ongoing struggle that occurs when our heads and our hearts are in disagreement is as old as time. Lately I am finding myself at a number of crossroads. 30 is creeping closer by the day and for one of the first times in my life I am all of a sudden acutely aware of my inner conflicts, although I am fairly confident that have always been there. I’ve always felt as though I was different and would never have that easy path I envied of some of my peers. But lately, after digging around in my head, I am starting to question everything.

Life is often time, a given. It’s a given that one follows in their father’s footsteps. Or it’s a given that growing up in a certain area means you will have and want to have later on, a certain standard of life. It’s often a given that we grow up wanting certain things in our lives that are standard society measures of happiness and prosperity. Good job, marriage, kids, holiday home, and all the stress that comes with trying to live a comfortable life. But is that what our heads tell us we want, or our hearts? How many of us, given the chance to let go of all those influences and expectations, would be doing something completely different and be living a life that is unrecognisable to our own? There is little understanding given to those who really branch out. They are called renegades and are chided for avoiding responsibility. Men are called Peter Pan and are told to grow up and women are tagged with “Bridget Jones” or “Sex and the City” syndrome as if being single and independent was some sort of medical disease.

But people who beat to their own drum are rarely viewed as successful or as an example for others to follow. That is, unless they are able to turn their way of life into a fantastic financial success. But that is the exception. Those who go their own way and do not become the next Richard Branson, but fall somewhere between comfortable and not so comfortable, are viewed with suspicion and are deemed not to be trusted. Society can’t understand why they don’t want to get a “regular job” and label them as lazy. Or why they don’t want to get married and have 2.5 kids and label them a loner. Parents shake their heads and mutter amongst each other that they ‘just don’t know what is wrong with Jake/Sarah’, and then the next thing you know you are cast aside as the black sheep of the family.

Now I am not 100% speaking from experience here as although I often think I am the black sheep of my family, I have stayed pretty true to the society rules. Straight A student, captain of the volleyball team, Ivy League education, corporate job with a large pharmaceutical company out of college, and have now set up my own business abroad. By no means do I even appear to tread that line of renegade loser who treks around the world in search of myself. But why not? Sometimes I feel as though I am closer to that line than it may appear. I rebelled all through high school after I considered myself a very good and obedient child during my early years. I even recall the only time I ever failed a test in elementary school and the shame I felt at having to tell my parents. I must have been no older than 8 and I recall it clearly. Later on, the rules that regulated my high school, I truly believed, were only there for me to break them. I then went as far as I possibly could go to attend university, both geographically (California to Rhode Island) and socially (conservative to hippy liberal), disappointing a few who hoped I would follow the family Trojan tradition and attend USC (University of Southern California). After heading back to California after college, I saw my life stretching out in front me as one long sunny day full of happy hours and beach parties and the family business. So I made a very snap and rash decision to move to London. I knew it was the right thing to do and I also knew that no one else but me would think so.

Now looking back at that decision 6 years later, it was clearly one of the best I have ever made. It was heart over head all the way. The reason I bring it up, is that I was also at a cross roads at my life then. I was bored and unfulfilled and wanted more out of my life. At 23, I knew I needed nothing short of a drastic change. Now I am nearly 30, I am again at that cross road. But this time, it’s not just me standing on the corner trying to decide which path to take. So what do I do? Do I do what everyone wants me to do and expects me to do? Or do I follow my heart and do what I want? These days my heart is so clouded by my head that I have to really listen to hear its voice. I am so used to making decisions that are responsible and taking calculated risks and thinking about the pros and cons of things before I do them, that I have left my heart to ride shotgun for a long time. But if I know one thing for certain, it’s that my head has made great decisions as well as horrible decisions, but, my heart has never let me down once.

#18 My Better Half

September 24th, 2009

My Better Half

This is my 18th instalment of The Ride and it has been brought to my attention on more than one occasion that I never mention my better half, Matt. I would like to point out that he has stated in the past that he doesn’t want to be mentioned or written about and also I would like to note that he doesn’t actually read any of my articles. I am pretty sure he thinks they are something too personal for him to read and he likes to keep this area of my life to me. The reason I bring it up now, is that he is a huge reason for why I am even here in London, running my own business, and writing about it.

Now in most articles I read about entrepreneurs, you read about their supportive ‘Partner’ and how they could not have done it on their own, etc. I beg to differ, I think they if they were given the same opportunity at the same time, they would’ve still done it if they were single. Would it have been hell those first few months or years? Yes. But it would’ve been hell anyway; the only difference is that you don’t have anyone to share that hell with. No one to come home to and let off steam (complain) to, no one to bring you back to reality and remind you that it’s ‘just work.’ So yes they probably would’ve still started up, but will they make it to year 5? This is where it all gets tricky. One of the best things about having a support system is that it provides what is says on the tin. Support in the bad times and someone to celebrate with in the good times. I love my girlfriends, but they all have their own lives. They give as much support at they possibly can, but each has her own career, relationship, and life. One couldn’t ask for more. My family have always been my go to support system, but with them living an 11 hour flight away, it means that they can’t always be there either. As I have gotten older I have had to rely on more than my family for support, and this is where my better half has got his name of ‘better half’ rather than ‘other half. ‘

I can only imagine what I would be like without him. I am selfish enough as is; I shudder to think of who I would become left to my own devices. There is always that saying, “Behind every good man is a good woman” and obviously I translate this into a genderless saying as although I am named after my father, I am still a girl. But I believe it. A strong, supportive and most importantly confident, other half is essential. Someone who pushes you to get out of bed on a Monday and who still gets excited when you do a deal. Someone who understands why on Friday night all you want to do is get sh*t housed and then tucks you into bed in foetal position with a glass of water by your bed. Someone who reminds you when you start getting too bossy (Corre I don’t work for you, you can’t just point and demand something), and also reminds you that you are more than just a manager, businessman, and employee. But the most crucial part is finding someone who doesn’t compete with you and isn’t jealous. Comfortable and confident in themselves, and thus fully able to be happy and supportive of you. That is the kicker. That is the tough part. I haven’t come across many and have certainly had my fair share of those who were not impressed with all that I had achieved and could barely suppress their resentment.

So when you find one, you hold on to them. They are valuable and very difficult to replace. My better half makes me human when I appear to the world as a super bitch. People meet him and think, ‘oh, well she must not be that bad if such a nice guy is with her.’ So while I am constantly hearing propaganda about the Alpha Woman and Independent Woman and whatever other term we wish to tag on the successful woman of the new millennium, if she is moderately sane and happy, there is often a strong man behind her. Reminding her that he loves her anyway, and doesn’t care about the big deal she has just lost, the promotion she got turned down for, or the client she failed to win. Someone who celebrates even your small wins. So while he is no saint, screws up, has more than his fair share of flaws and at times drives me insane, he is still there, everyday, allowing me to be me and not trying to change me. So for that I say, thank you.

#17 Great Expectations

September 17th 2009

Great Expectations

Most of us live in the shadow of our own and other people’s expectations. We usually fall into 2 categories; either the expectations set for us by our families, friends, peers or ourselves is too high and we are always falling short, or the expectations are set very low so that anything that is achieved is a nice surprise and one is rarely disappointed. I would venture to say that a great majority of us in the work world fall into the former category and are chasing great expectations that many times seem to elude us.

It’s an interesting one this topic as it has forced me to sit down and deconstruct the expectations that I attempt to live up to everyday. Expectations are all around us. If you come from a family whose parents are still together, then the expectation that you not divorce is high. Which means if you are the 1 in 2 that will experience a divorce, you then feel like a complete and utter failure when it happens. Things are similar in the work force. If you come from a successful family within the, let’s say, banking sector, then the pressure for you to go on to become a success in that field is high. It’s the same across almost anything. Expectations are placed on us to go to certain schools, achieve certain grades, marry a certain kind of person, live in the ‘right’ area, earn a standard of living, and achieve in whatever career falls into the ‘appropriate’ file, which is usually some sort of corporate blue chip career. But what about the rest of us? What about the ones for whom the mould is just not enough? Or the ones who seek to carve out a different path, their own path?

It’s ironic, because people who stray from the standard expectations are usually the people that are most highly regarded and celebrated today. We call them ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘trail blazers’ and we write books about them and how to replicate their success. Many of them buck the conventional trends; Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard, Richard Branson never even made it to higher education, and Oprah came from a background that many of us could not even begin to imagine for the most powerful woman in the world. Yet these 3 individuals are synonymous across the world with success and entrepreneurship. So why are we still trying to so desperately to fit into a certain mould or conform to expectations that are often not our own?

In all honesty, I don’t know the answer. I can barely articulate my own internal fight with the expectations that I live with. But I am going to put myself out there and say it’s probably a mixture of fear and pride. Fear, in that many of us fear we are letting people down. Letting our parents down, our own kids perhaps, our peers, our bosses or even ourselves. Pride in that if we do take that risk and stray off the beaten path and it doesn’t work, then we’ll be sitting their licking our wounds while the rest of the world laughs. Now in reality, that doesn’t happen, but that is what we think will happen. We will look like a failure and all those around us will sit and point and say ‘ I told you so.’ So we stay between the lines, and rarely venture out, hoping that it will be enough. Enough to appease those around us, enough to appease us, and certainly enough to appease the great expectations.

But I have learned that for me, it’s not enough. Ever since I was a child, few things were ever enough. I pushed my parents limits until I was threatened to be sent away to boarding school, I pushed my teachers until I was kicked out of class, and I pushed myself on the volleyball court until I was a CIF champion and Ivy League Champion. To me, it all comes from the same pool. The unwillingness to conform comes from the same place within me as my willingness to be the best. I always knew I would have to take my own path to get where I want to go and it’s often not the easiest path. But this past year I have learned that if I believe in something, whether that is a person, idea, or business plan and it is slightly off or even way off the beaten path, then I can still go for it. Because at the end of the day, when I strip away everything, I am only left with myself and my expectations, and sometimes they are all that matter.

#16 Value for Money

September 10th 2009

Value for Money

Starting a company has taught me a lot about myself and what I value in my life. I have recently starting a Coaching Programme with my team in which values are the foundation. Our lives are run and ruled by what we value and consider important. If what we do on a day to day basis, ie our job, does not reflect our value system then we end up frustrated and unhappy. It sounds really simple, but the reality is often a different story.

Often times we have to juggle our values and decide what is actually important to us at this stage in our life. Friends of mine who make a lot of money, clearly value money and being able to afford a high flying life style. They don’t begrudge the hours they work or the other aspects of their personal lives that they are compromising because money is high on their value list. Other people I know value their family and spending time with their family. Thus they have switched jobs so that they have the flexibility to actually be able to raise their children, rather than the Phillipino nanny. These people tend to be happy and moving forward in their lives. Complaints are few and far between and are often not much more than your average whinge.

Then there are the others, those whose daily lives do NOT reflect their value system. One may believe that they highly value their health, yet they don’t sleep more than 5 hours per night due to stress, they smoke, have no time to work out and their hair is falling out, again due to stress. (Sound familiar?) All the money in the world will not make them happy if health or family come higher on the value scale than money. Another prominent example of this is happiness. Happiness is always on the value list somewhere. Sometimes I think that people haven’t even figured out what makes them happy but they are still searching for it. Yet I know dozens of people who will, day in day out for 10 hours per day, do a job that categorically brings them nothing but misery. The big question is why? Expectations, family or peer pressure, the list can go on.

One of the real driving factors that seem to fuel people living outside of their value systems is fear. Fear of the unknown and fear of failure to be exact. I’ve previously written about comfort zones and how successful people often push the envelope and the boundaries of their comfort zones on a pretty regular basis. The unknown is scary for the precise reason in the fact that it is unknown. We often want to know all the facts before making a decision but one of the facts we won’t be able to know until we do it, is how it will make us feel. If it will make us feel happy and content and fulfilled. If it will make our lives make sense. Another is the fear of failure and I reckon this one holds a lot of us back and has certainly held me back on too many occasions to count. Someone could sit here until they are blue in the face and tell me that ‘failure is just part of the learning process’ and that ‘failures are learning experiences’ and ‘all successful people have failed a number of times along the way.’ It’s not that I don’t believe them. A large number of hugely successful business people have been bankrupt a number of times and no one considers them failures. It’s just that for some of us, the fear of failure is so deep seeded that discontentment is often an easier option.

So the point of this is not to depress anyone, but simply to make one think. What is important to you? I have been thinking for awhile now, long and hard, about exactly that and I have made changes to reflect these things are am planning on making more. It is not an overnight process by any means. But, I am sick of hating Monday mornings and loving Fridays and I can only imagine a lot of people feel the same way. If so many of us are struggling in this economy anyway, shouldn’t we at least be struggling toward something that we will value when the sun does shine again?


Sept 3rd 2009


Reading the book by Malcolm Gladwell, The Outliers, provides an interesting insight into why some people are at the top of the table, while others who are equally as talented fall by the wayside. It suggests that success can be as much to do with circumstance and luck, as hard work, determination and grit. OCVBC will not mean much to anyone who did not grow up a girl in Orange County, California,. It’s stands for Orange County Volleyball Club and is a huge part of why I am where I am today. The reason I bring it up, is I believe that had I not grown up in Newport Beach, had I not played for this club for 5 years, I would not have achieved what I have and certainly would not be in London writing a blog about my experiences as a young entrepreneur.

I think in general, most people will have a difficult time seeing circumstance as a main driver in why people are successful. We have grown up on the American dream and would like to believe that regardless of circumstance, with hard work and determination, we can achieve whatever we want. Sure, hard work, intelligence, and grit will always play a huge part in separating people. Lazy people rarely become uber successful. But it takes more than that. By growing up in Newport Beach, one of the hot beds of women’s volleyball in the country, I, along with countless young girls started playing volleyball for OCVBC when I was 12. It was something that, seemingly, everyone did. The club was started by Charlie Brand, a man who is arguably one of the most influential people in the country in women’s volleyball. He was also unarguably the toughest. He took spoiled overindulged girls and turned them into tough athletes. No one, regardless of wealth, social stature, looks or intelligence was spared. Everyone was treated the same and everyone had to fight for their starting position every single practice. He taught us that if you want something, no one is going to hand it to you; you need to go out and get it. Charlie also made you punctual, professional and tough. If you were not 15 minutes early, you were late. Being late meant that your teammates had to run sets of lines while you were forced to sit and watch. A shirt out tucked was more lines and heaven forbid you cry. While all of this seems like sadistic abuse and often times it felt that way, it is also the backbone to many of the girls’ future successes. The club was one of the best in the country. We produced many of the top college volleyball players, Olympians and pro athletes. It didn’t just give you an opportunity to play volleyball in college (which many of us did), but it also gave you something that I have found often lacks in young kids in the working world: discipline.

I played for the club for 5 years and through my success there was recruited for an Ivy League university and subsequently played my whole 4 years at college. Those 9 years of my life I commited to the sport, is the single largest commitment I have ever made to anything. The lessons learned there have been woven into everything that I do. I look at how I run my company and cannot help but think of Charlie. Sometime I wonder if I would be here today if I had been allowed to quit when I was 14, as I so desperately wanted to. I hate to admit it, but I categorically know I would be nowhere near. Growing up in Newport Beach, one could make all kinds of assumptions of the advantages I may have had. But in reality, the real advantage was Orange County Volleyball Club. An environment where you could not buy your spot on the starting team and where everything you earned was yours. Where team was everything and one person was nothing. Where being late or lazy came with huge repercussions and where the weak were weeded out naturally. Where being the captain of the team meant that if you lost, the weight fell on your slender teenage shoulders and where you learned to look out for each other because your hell was also their hell. It personified the quote, “if it was easy, everyone would do it”.

I bet that if asked, each entrepreneur, business owner, or any successful individual will have a similar story. There will be something in their life that formed them into how they are, whether that be a parent, coach, teacher, sibling or friend. I imagine there are loads of people out there who given a similar set of circumstances, would be at the top of their game as well. If I have learned anything about business, it’s that you need more than just hard work and a winning attitude to make it. You need all that in spades, but these days you also need that something more.

#14 Damaged Goods

August 27th 2009

Damaged Goods

We are now roughly 18 months into the "credit crunch" and many of us are changed people. A lucky few will come out of this unscathed. However, for the majority of us who have been kicked, beaten and punched, we are now classified as damaged goods. I equate it to trying to date someone who has just got out of a bad relationship. They are untrusting, emotionally unbalanced, and are carrying around Louis Vuitton steamer trunks of baggage.

But if most of the work force is now somewhat damaged, how is that changing our work and home environments? For starters, pessimism has become the norm. No one is putting their hand up and saying it's going to be alright. That's probably because for a few of us, it won't be alright and it may never be alright again. But what about the rest? The majority will come through this hopefully smarter and more money and business savvy. Surely that is something to be positive about?

Starting this company during a recession has taught me quite a bit that I certainly would not have learned had I started up during a boom time. Firstly, mistakes are costly. They are costly at any time, but they are particularly costly during a recession. I used to make the same mistake twice and learn by the third time. Now I only make them once. Another lesson that has come out of these times is the importance of consistency. When the whole world is up and down and everyday there is some new drama on the front page of the news, consistency is often the best way to keep things going. I don't have the luxury of being moody. Regardless of what is happening, if I remain calm and relatively consistent so will everyone else.

But the most compelling lesson over the past year has been humility. Quite a few of us who were flying pretty high have undoubtedly learned this lesson. Very few of us are untouchable and looking around, the beatings we have taken are anything from a simple black eye to severed legs. People are more fragile now and breakable. This makes hiring an interesting exercise. Whether one is hiring an experienced person or a grad, if they are on the market they are in the damaged goods box. The grads have now spent the entire summer job hunting with little to no success and you can see in their eyes they are close to losing hope. The prospect of still being unemployed by Christmas is a fear that will become a reality for many of them. The experienced hires are often more beaten and near defeated. Many of them coming from the banking sector and have yet to find their feet in this new world of doom and gloom. It's like rescuing an abused dog and will take months, if not the entire year to coax them back to where they once were.

Damaged goods...we are all licking our wounds and for some of us, our bandages are almost ready to come off. But there is little doubt that many of us will never be the same again.

#12 Space Odyssey 2012

August 20, 2009

Space Odyssey 2012

The future. Space Odyssey 2012. I have just finished writing and delivering my 3 year business plan and vision and it is exciting, scary, and daunting all at once. I imagine all the people I know who have sat in my shoes and have mapped out and planned the future. How many of them have gone on to become huge successes and how many have not made it. There are probably fewer who on the success list as the amount of work, dedication and opportunity that one must have on their side is enormous. But if you are on the success list, the future really is looking bright.

The future can sometimes be scary as it’s the fear of the unknown. Unknown and change. 2 things that historically people have trouble dealing with. But tackling the unknown and changing are integral parts to being successful. 3 years will go by in the blink of an eye. But who will I be in 3 years? This first year has already flown by and time is going even faster now. What kind of business woman will I be? What other lessons will I have learned? Will I still be someone that people want to work with? Will the success or lack of success affect how I view the world? Sitting here and planning out the future, I obviously plan to be incredibly successful, but sometimes the amount of success that I want and am planning on having scares me a bit. It’s scary because I would be naïve to think that it wouldn’t change things. Success and power always change things. Some people handle that transition beautifully, while others end up alone.

I was sitting on my own this morning and just thinking. We often don’t get much time to ourselves to just sit and think and do nothing else. No TV, no radio, no dog, no iphone, no distractions. Just me and my thoughts. I often wonder how I got here. If I am perfectly honest it’s not something that I planned. I love my life, but I didn’t set out any goals when I was 20 to be at any certain stage by the time I was 30. So now that I have set out goals and plans for where I want to be in 3 years time, it gets me thinking. Life will no longer be me flying by the seat of my pants. In fact, if I am honest with myself, it probably hasn’t been that way for a few years now.

Once you put plans in place, it’s up to you to make sure that those plans happen. It’s a commitment. I wouldn’t call myself a commitment phobe. I have been in a serious relationship now for 5 years. However, upon really deconstructing my tendency to rarely set definitive goals, or make plans, it does make me wonder? I don’t really like committing to too much. On the weekends I like to leave my days open and just see what happens and who we see. Sometimes when I travel places, I will purposely not book a hotel and just find one when I show up. I have always told myself it was the adventure of it all. But recently, I am starting to think that my lack of plans in my life so far have been more about being ready to commit to them and less about the spontaneity of it all. Which is why this 3 year plan is such a big deal to me. It’s one of the first times in my life where I have sat down and actually decided where I want to be and what I want to achieve in x amount of time. Not only that, but I can’t achieve it without my team which means that I have to rely on others to get to where I want to be. Another first for me.

So it really does feel like I am on a Space Odyssey. What does 2012 look like? I’ve got an idea in my head, but I have a feeling the reality will be so much better. I have a feeling that the sense of achievement that will come from hitting the goals and levels of success that I have set will be far greater than if I just stumbled across them. It has also forced me to think about what else I want in my life in 3 years time. I'm no spring chicken anymore, and am starting to think that I may have to put some plans into my personal life as well. Hmmm... maybe I should let my boyfriend know... :-)

#11 King Rat

August 13th 2009

King Rat

Anyone who has travelled to very poor countries will have come across an interesting phenomenon. Now I am not underplaying that there are numerous impoverished countries and places where the people are dying of malnourishment and disease. But, there are also incredibly poor countries where the majority of the population live well below the poverty line, yet still have food and shelter. These countries, which include places like India and Vietnam, have provided an important lesson to how I view the rat race that I find myself in. The people there are very family orientated, many of them find their happiness in the simple pleasures, they often go out of their way to help you out expecting little or nothing in return other than a smile, and understand that as long as they have their health and family, there is lots to be happy about.

To most of the Western thinking world, that truly is a phenomenon. For those of us involved in the rat race, it’s difficult to imagine being happy with only our health and family. Our society just doesn’t place that much importance on those two things. Now, I know some of you are shaking your head right now, but when viewing us as a whole it’s pretty true. Our obesity rates are the highest in the world, we smoke, drink, do drugs and most of us have a number of stress related illnesses. If we are working out and taking care of our physical health, it’s probably due more to vanity than anything else. On the family side of things, our divorce rates speak for themselves. Infidelity is common place, children are increasingly coming from broken homes, nursing homes are full of our parents and grandparents and most of us would rather spend time at work making money, than with our families. It sounds dark, but most of us are well and truly seasoned entrants in the rat race.

And what are we getting out of it? Money, houses, boats, planes, holidays to exotic places, clothes, jewellery, and the list goes on. We get possessions. We get experiences. Many of these experiences may even shape us as people. But the rat race doesn’t buy us more time with our families, friends or the people we love. We all know it doesn’t buy happiness (although it does buy comfort). It can’t buy back the years of abuse many of us have put our bodies through in our 20’s. And it doesn’t buy love. So all in all, we are trading on average 10 hours per day, 5 days per week, for things and status amongst those who value things. Shallow isn’t it? It is drilled into us from a young age, that success means money, a nice house, holidays, providing for your family, and as many luxuries that you can afford. I can’t remember being taught growing up that success meant having a lasting marriage, spending time with my kids, spending time with my parents as they grow old, spending time on myself and my health, and being happy. Those values seeped into me, but they were not synonymous with success. Now I feel quite lucky as I come from a very strong and close family where my parents have always stressed that my happiness must come before anything else. Thus, I have made decisions in my professional life which has seen me turn down opportunities that would’ve undoubtedly meant more money to me because I was unhappy doing them. Would I have done that had I not valued my happiness? Or would I have done that if I didn’t have the choice? Ie, I didn’t have supportive parents who have given me a safety net to pursue a professional career which has the potential to bring me not only success but happiness as well? I think we all know the answer to that.

I am not saying that the rat race is wrong. I am not even judging it because it’s mainly those who buck the rat race trend that tend to get judged. We call them hippies, commies, trust fund babies, soft cocks, or just simply losers. But I do think that it’s important to realise that I am not in the rat race to win. There is no one winner to the rat race. There are too many of us. King Rat is nothing more than a fantastic James Clavell novel. So while I am turning on my wheel, always trying to run faster with the promise of upgrading to a bigger and shinier wheel, I am just grateful that I know. I know that you can’t take it with you, I know that I will have to find part of my happiness elsewhere, I know that given the choice I would take my family and love and my dog, and I know that all this is only a part of me. There is little point in having cool things just to play with them on my own. I am still young enough to dream that I can win the rat race, have all the cool toys, an amazing family and will never get seriously ill. Spoken like a true 29 year old.

#10 Gimme a Break

August 6th, 2009

Gimme a Break

Timing can be everything in business. A well timed call can lead to a meeting and new business. A timely meeting with your staff can lead to increased production. Just by speaking to people on a Friday, I find that I am more successful in whatever I am trying to achieve. Timing really can make or break. The timing that I am talking about is exactly that. The big, or even sometimes small, break. If I had caught certain breaks earlier in the year, would I be on the path I am now? Would some people still be with me that are not here now?

I am a big believer in cycles. What goes up must come down. If I have a run of “bad luck” then I know that I am due good luck and that my break is just around the corner. However, this theory has not really applied over the past year. Nor do I see it applying in the next 12 months. We are now in a place in business time, where we are going longer and longer in the down turn and the upturns are now more like blips rather than the mountains we used to have. We are working 3 times as hard for about half of what we used to get. This means that the impact of getting any kind of break gives you, is huge. I find myself practically jumping in the air every time I get a small win. Medium wins, I am fist pumping , and while I have not had a big win in awhile, I do have a bottle of champagne in the refrigerator just in case.

It’s as though things have got so tough that I forgot what it feels like to be successful. Now, we are still very far off of where we need to be but I can finally see that we are on the right track. Which means that this break is not a break, but is actually the start of a pattern. It also means that my “unlucky phase” or down turn, had nothing to do with luck. While it’s difficult to admit, the down turn is nothing more than a mixture of lacking things. These things tend to be foresight, discipline, hard work, resiliency, and organisation. Successful people are never lucky. They are usually a mixture of the hardest working and smartest working.

Getting a small break has reminded me of how I got here in the first place. The taste of success never leaves your mouth once you’ve had it. For me it’s like a drug. I am willing to struggle through months of hard work, pain, and crap, just to put myself back in the place where I can get my hits of success on a regular basis again. I love everything about it. When you are down, it’s very easy to forget how good it feels. The self-perpetuating cycle is one where you become used to ‘losing’. But, if you have been through the good times, like many of us who have been in the business world for the past 5+ years have, then we can remember what to be successful feels like. It wasn’t that long ago. So by getting just a tiny but timely break, it takes me back to the good days and I am now willing to do whatever it takes to get more. I have learned that I must not forget why I am doing this in the first place. Just because the past year has been one of the toughest I have ever had, does not change the fact that I love being good at what I do and I love winning and success. The break is just the beginning.

#9 You vs. Me

July 30th 2009

You vs. Me

Comparison is a very interesting thing when you break it down. Looking at my business, I, inevitably judge my successes and my failures by comparing them to everyone else. To our competition, to other similar businesses in my industry, to my old company, to other companies in completely different industries, the list goes on. Comparison is everywhere. How do we decide who is the best? By comparing them to everyone else and then seeing who comes out on top. The trouble with comparison is that there is only 1 space at the top. So where does that leave everyone else?

As long as there is life on earth, there will always be competition for the top spot. It permeates every single species. The weak are eventually weeded out by the strong. Survival of the fittest is a phrase not only used in the scientific community, but also in the business world. Who is the best? Who is the biggest? Who makes the most money? Who has the most power? The interesting thing about competition and comparison is that it exists in every single microcosm of each division of any business. Who is the top producer on the sales team? Which member of the finance team produces the most accurate figures? Which Director has the best vision? Who is the best implementer? But most importantly, who are these people the best of? Usually it’s either the company or the division. But whether it is a team of 3 or a corporation of 50,000 you will find there will be top dogs in each and every office. It is my belief that competition is not only healthy for any organisation, but vital. Reading articles about how schools are getting rid of the Valedictorian as they don’t want to make other students, who are not as bright feel bad, make me sick. We are not all created equal, nor is life fair. By eradicating competition in the school system, we are crippling kids to the reality of the work world. I have found that the world revolves around competition, in whatever capacity that may be.

But there is also a dangerous side to comparison. Comparison allows people who are not doing very well do become incredibly comfortable. While they are far from the top, they take comfort in the fact that they are still quite away from the bottom. People, who are at the bottom, rarely compare themselves to those at the top as they are so far away they take more comfort in comparing to those underachievers around them. Comparison can invoke a false sense of security and give individuals a belief that they are better than they are. But, comparing ourselves to those around us is natural. In these times we like to believe that if we work hard enough, are savvy enough, and bright enough we can rise to the top of whatever we choose. Now, we all know that this is not really the case, but all the same, we want to feel as though we all have a fighting chance. So how successful are we really? What is the base line? Who really is the best and in whose eyes?

Competition and comparison end up being very personal. There seems to be no real bottom line as to who really is the best and compared to whom. What I have taken away from this business is that hiding behind false comparisons just delays the inevitable. It ends up being less about comparing myself to others and more about comparing myself to what I know I can achieve. Anyone who is the best is someone who consistently pushes their personal best. They strive to be the best version of themselves. But sometimes, it just feels good to be the top dog.

#8 Humble Pie

July 22nd, 2009

Humble Pie

I find it to be almost unbelievable. Unbelievable, in the fact of how little I actually know about any of this. Now, I know this is probably not something that I should be admitting to everyone, but it’s true. At 12 months in, I certainly have learned a lot. So much, that I have come to the realisation that upon starting this company, I knew little and next to nothing about running a business. Now we can look at me and my experience and think, ‘of course you don’t know anything about running a business, you have never run one before.’ But, those were not my thoughts 12 months ago when I started up. People who start their own businesses are usually not lacking in confidence and are certainly not lacking in opinions of what they think is right and what everyone else is doing wrong. It is how they carve out their niche in the market and justify their existence in the first place.
Well now, 12 months into this business I find myself eating a LARGE slice of humble pie. Because I now know, just how little I know, and how much is out there that I need to learn. The Don’t Know slice is a pretty large slice of the pie. But all is not lost and there are certainly a lot of positives here. For starters, the lessons I have learned over the past year are big ones. Fundamental ones. Lessons that I will take with me to every business venture and start up that I am ever a part of. Most of the big mistakes I have made over the year are ones that my business partners tried to warn me of. But did I listen? Did I take heed the advice of the experienced, whom I purposely went into business with precisely due to that experience? Or did I go my own way? Thinking that I knew better, that I was different. That I would somehow, as if by magic, not follow their advice and manage to move the business forward almost in spite of it. I am sure that you can guess by now where this is all leading. It all leads to me eating a big slice of humble pie and not wondering where it all went wrong, but more like pin pointing it down to a T, where it all went wrong. Now I know this all sounds very dramatic, but it is certainly not as bad as it seems. In fact, the lessons had to be learned. Having them securely under my belt means that I am now in a more empowered position to dig myself and the company out of the hole. Having the ability to directly affect things and move things forward is a powerful thing. It’s certainly do or die time.
So while the humble pie tastes bitter, it’s almost more bitter sweet. I don’t think we ever stop learning. This means that in the grand scheme of things, I am like an elementary school kid. I am learning the fundamentals like reading, math, and history. Right now I am learning (the hard way) the fundamentals of cash flow, overheads, and revenue. It’s my belief that even if I had an MBA in hand and was an expert in those subjects, I would’ve still had to learn them the hard way. For some lessons in life, there is only one way to get them to sink in.
For anyone who knows me, eating humble pie is a tough thing for me to do. It does make me see how hard the ride really is. There are times when I feel on top of the world, but most of the time I am forced to see myself for what I really am. A young entrepreneur trying to turn a profit and grow a business. Even when the times are great, this is a large feat. The times being tough only make the lessons learned harder and the humble pie sweeter.

#7 The Best and the Brightest

July 13th 2009

The Best and the Brightest

We are now nearing our 1 year anniversary, which falls on July 15th, and it is both exhilarating and strange looking back on the first year. Exhilarating in the fact that it’s been one of the most crazy, erratic, and depressing years in economic memory. Strange in the fact that we are doing business in completely different markets than what I had stated in my business plan. If someone told me last July that I would be working the markets that I am working now, I would not have believed them. In fact, I probably would’ve looked at the markets with a bit of snobbish disdain. Through my young and naïve eyes, I saw the world as such that I believed that I could only make money and have success by replicating, to a certain extent, my business based on the markets I knew and had always worked. The notion that other markets, less sexy markets, could bring me success did not occur to my pride-filled ego.
I now know better. I have learned that to have success in a market, previous experience in that market is not an essential item. It helps, it absolutely helps, but it is by no means the most important thing. My business partner told this story to a roomful of Directors whom he works with and it has really hit home for me over the past 6 months. In the UK 9 times out of 10 the best and the brightest end up at either Oxford or Cambridge. Over here they called it an “Oxbridge education”. One particular man ended up graduating from both Eton and Oxford, and his peers were all getting snapped up by the top law firms, investment banks, and hedge funds. Meanwhile, he decided to start a small business cleaning offices. All of his friends, and particularly his family were appalled. Why did he go to such prestigious schools if he did not want to carry on the tradition of white collar aristocratic success? His reasons were clear and simple: why go into an area of business where they already have the best and the brightest? He had spent most of his education with these ambitious, intelligent and incredibly successful people and he had no doubt they would continue in their successes in their chosen fields. Why would he want to compete with the best in an already saturated market? He didn’t. He chose to go into a market where he had no experience, where he couldn’t leverage many of his contacts, but also where his chance of becoming incredibly successful was very high. Now I am not saying that the office cleaning industry did not have bright and successful people in it, but I can safely say it was not full of the best and the brightest of each graduating class. While his friends worked steadily up the ladder, he grew his small business into one of the largest office cleaning companies in the UK. He is now worth near 100 million pounds, while most of his graduating class at Oxford will only dream of that net worth unless they inherit it.
So the lesson learned is quite simple. When I started the company my experience lay within one part of the industry. It was an area that is highly profitable, one of the largest sectors and where the competition pays high commissions and attracts some of the best consultants in the industry. So being a small start up, literally a minnow amongst giants, was the most attainable path to success competing in the same market? I had thought so at a time when I hadn’t even entertained the notion that I could do something different. Now I have learned that moving into different markets, less saturated, where my competition don’t pay the best commission and have not attracted the best and the brightest, is one of the best moves I have made. Rather than try and be the best amongst the best, I now want to be the best amongst the average. My chances of success are far greater, and having worked in what is considered one of the best companies, I know the standard of consultant it takes, the work ethic, and the ambition. It’s no less profitable of a market, just less high brow. And by bringing the best and the brightest to this new market, our chances of becoming a market name in a short amount of time suddenly becomes a reality rather than a dream.
While what I am doing now is nowhere near as cool sounding, and my new client’s offices are a far cry from the London boardrooms of past clients, I have come to understand that money, no matter which market you make it in, is all the same colour when it’s sitting in your bank account. And finding success that is not only relatively quick but sustainable is a far greater achievement that carving out 1% of an already saturated market. As I enter my second year in business, I get excited not as much by how far we have come, but more about the real possibilities that lie ahead. By making this move it means that this year we have a chance to start carving out some real market share, rather than fighting for the crumbs the big boys overlooked. It’s exciting, it’s scary, most of it is all new to me, I am completely out of my comfort zone, and I have never felt more alive.

#6 Lose Yourself

June 25, 2009

Lose Yourself

We are told from a young age that as we get older, life is all about compromise. Compromise. Even the word makes me cringe. If I am completely honest with myself, it’s not something that I am particularly good at. I like to think I get exponentially better at it each year I have lived past 25, which means that at 29 I am still at the kindergarten stage. The form of compromise I am talking about, however, is not the real topic of this blog. I am talking about the darker form of compromise. What I have lost along the way in order to gain what I have gained.
Some of us learn this one early on. You may have had to sacrifice countless things in order to have a chance at the opportunities that you wanted a shot at. But this for me, is one that I am learning slowly. Year by year, I am forced to look at my life and make sure that I am not weighing to heavy on any side. But, the more ambitions one gets, the more difficult it gets. I always believed that I could have it all. I am starting to believe that if I want it all, it can probably only happen on a small stage. Whereas, if I want it all on the big main stage, then something has got to give.
You always read articles and exposes on these amazing leaders who somehow manage to run multi-national corporations, whilst still being able to do the school run and do philanthropy work in their “spare” time. And while I don’t think they are lying, I do think that somewhere along the way, they were working 18 hour days, rarely saw their family, and their idea of philanthropy was signing a check. But, when it comes to success, and having it all in the end, what are we compromising along the way?
It reminds me of a story or fable really that a friend of mine told me years ago that has stuck. The one that goes somewhere along these lines: On a beautiful beach in remote part of the world, there was a young man fishing. He loved fishing on the beach, and everyday caught enough fish to feed his family and to keep his small and humble home. He was by no means a wealthy man, but he and his family had food, shelter, and their health. He led a simple but happy life. Then one day a man in a suit came up to him, and told him that the particular stretch of land the he owned and fished on, held enough fish to feed the entire village and would he like to set up a small fishing stall in the market to do so. The man set up and soon became the most popular stall in the market; he then set up his own fish monger’s in town and soon had fish stalls all over the state and soon the country. He was now an important man, far too busy to stand on the beach and idly fish all day. When they were old enough, his sons followed him into the business and expanded his empire internationally. By now the man was in his late 40’s and working every hour the day allowed. He hardly saw his wife and his sons were already squabbling over their inheritance and share of the business. The man tried to remember back to when the days were simpler. He started to think about slowing down. He booked a meeting with his accountant to see when he should retire and his accountant told him : if you continue to work really hard and build your business, then in 5 years you can retire comfortably to a house on the beach and spend your days fishing off the shores and hanging out with your family and wife. The light bulb went on and he realised that he has sacrificed his most precious values in order to obtain something that he already had.
I always remember that story as a reminder. I think it’s often too easy to lose sight of what’s really important when your eyes are focused so keenly on the horizon. Anyone who has tasted success has had to make compromises along the way in order to do so. I am now at the stage in my life where in the not too distant future I would like a family and kids. But on the other hand, I also want to grow my company, open new offices, expand internationally and become an incredibly successful businesswoman. What friendships and relationships have I already given up to get to where I am today? Do I miss anyone? Was it worth it? So far, I don’t have too many regrets but I can’t deny that I have foregone friendships and relationships in order to build my career and life in London. But as I get older, it all somehow gets more serious. One day I will have much more than just myself to answer to and be accountable to. In fact, I already do. Will it be my business that suffers or my relationships? Or will I somehow find a way to have it all?

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Ride :: The Diary of a Young Entrepreneur #5

June 23, 2009
Fake n' Make

Back in my volleyball days, we often used the term, "Fake it 'til you make it". Now this is exactly what is says on the tin. If you are down, sideways or anything other than up, you need to fake to the world that you are up. Not just up, but confident, successful and leave no one with any doubt that you are going to do anything other than win. You literally need to fake that you are the best, you are winning, you are untouchable, you are amazing, before anyone else forms a different opinion and thus takes advantage of your chips being down.

I have found that confidence and momentum play a huge part, not only in sports, but in life. A recent example of this is the Champions League final this year between Manchester United and Barcelona. This is soccer for all the American readers. Over here this is like the NBA finals between the Lakers and the Celtics, just to give it some perspective. Anyway, Man U came out all confident, taking shots on goal from the first minute, and it appeared that no only were they going to win, but going to kill Barcelona. They dominated the entire field for the first 5 or 10 minutes with Barcelona not even having 1 single shot on goal. Then, Barcelona, given their first opportunity to score, did just that. And with that one single shot, took all the confidence and momentum away, and Manchester were never able to get it back or recover. Once your confidence is shaken, no matter what the playing field, you are at a distint disadvantage. The only way around this at times, is to fake it 'til you make it.

I still sit in awe when I see what being confident can bring you. It is just as amazing to see someone who loses confidence and how quickly the demise of their situation can come about. In my experience, confidence is king. Now, I am not talking about hip swaggering arrogance, but real confidence. The kind of confidence that only comes when you have been knocked down a few times and have had to get up. The kind that comes from suffering through 20 rejections to get 1 yes. Confidence that comes from putting yourself out there and having to face tough decisions and tough situations that shape you and make you. This is the kind of confidence it takes. The read kind. The kind that, because you are tried and test, you will come through even when the chips are down.

I have, in the past 12 months, gone through varying stages of confidence. In the early days, confidence is high. I had just started a new company and was finally my own boss and riding high on the coattails of that for at least the first 3 months. My parents and family were telling me how proud they were, friends complimented me and supported me on taking this step, and my peers sat in two categories. Some thought it was a natural decision for me and I was born to be a leader, while others were happy to get rid of me and I doubt would have minded if I crashed and burned in the first year. Then boom, Lehman Brothers, Northern Rock, RBS, crash burn crash burn. We were not immediately affected by it all, but the world changed. The next 6 months were decidely different. No one was riding high on the confidence wave. In fact, the people who had always faked it 'til they made it, now came across as either naive or not in touch with reality. The rules were changing, right along with pretty much everything else. During this time, my confidence was still in denial. I still thought I was pretty great, but seeing numerous greats either getting knocked down a few pegs, or some falling of the pedestal altogether, started making me question myself. Was I next? Was my market next? Would I be spared the back hand of discontent? No. I couldn't, and I wouldn't.

Which leads me to the last 3 months. Part of which are now chronicled here, and the confidence barometer reads like the Barclays share price. Up and down, but largely trending upwards and onwards. I have realised that there is no time for self doubt or self pity. There will always be knocks and if I let them show, I am losing. I always tell my guys, this whole thing called work, is all one big game. There are winners and losers and if you can simplify it to that level, and cut through all the crap, then you can start playing the game to win. Each day is like a point in tennis. There are no ties, no draws, someone wins and someone else loses. Just like a point in tennis (seems natural to use this analogy with Wimbledon on this week) the winning and losing is all in the mind. It's all in the confidence. If one player sees the other falter, even in the slightest, they will go in for the kill. Then they'll spend the rest of the game pushing their opponent further and further into self doubt, until they finish them off.

So while my confidence is trending upwards, I can look back at the confidence I had when I started this business or when I was playing volleyball and I can chuckle a bit to myself. Not because it wasn't real, but because it feels the confidence that comes with experience is so much more satisfying than the fake it 'til you make it kind, however necessary that is sometimes. I imagine it's how our parents look at us when we are teenagers adn I can hand on heart swear that I genuinely thought I knew everything. Confidence doesn't come with age, but with experience. And I am confident that the experiences that have come with starting a new business in one of the toughest economic climates ever, will allow me to keep playing this game long after a number of my opponents.