Look, Ma, No Hands . . . Well, Not Quite!
Learning to ride a bike was a transformative experience for me. The bike meant absolute freedom — freedom to cover more ground than I ever dreamed possible in a single summer day and, probably more importantly, freedom from watchful parents at least until the street lights came on. As I’ve grown older, I’ve had the opportunity to watch others learn to ride bikes and that transition from training wheels to flying stirs up mixed emotions.
Sara, my stepdaughter, learned to ride a bike when she was 10 years old. She had tried once when she was about 6 and the lessons didn’t take. She finally learned to ride her small pink Schwinn Stingray in the back of my condominium while her dad, my beau, shouted instructions at her. I couldn’t bear to watch.
Fast forward a decade and her dad, my then and now husband, was back at it teaching our 5 and 6 year olds, Mattie and Meg, to ride their fancy schmancy Trek roadsters in the church parking lot. It was exactly as I remembered it from ten years before. First, there was excitement, then some terror, and a lot of crying when bikes careened off course and knees and elbows got bloody. I couldn’t watch. I went inside the house, turned on the music so I couldn’t hear the screaming, and meticulously washed the dishes by hand.
Almost two years ago, I started TalentFront. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the journey. Starting a business has been a lot like learning to ride a bike — perilous and exciting — except this time I’m getting on that peppy new roadster.
In October of 2012, I started TalentFront excited about doing something new in recruiting and talent acquisition. I bought a bright new shiny Mac, signed up with Contactually and LinkedIn, and started “training.” I attended dozens of workshops about starting a new business and talked to enthusiasts galore whose principal advice was, “what are you waiting for?” With my head full of new information and the latest gear, I hit the road. My first speed bump was messaging, which I talked about in an earlier post, Perfect Pitch. I picked myself up, dusted myself off and kept going. I ended up taking between 20 and 25 meetings/week that first year – some actually turned into assignments and clients. It was exhilarating taking the “bike” out for these test drives around the block. Around Christmas, I started to think that I was ready for a longer ride. I took a meaningful detour around this time and went to Africa for two weeks to work on a nonprofit called EduCorps that I cofounded with the above-mentioned Sara and my friend, Kabahita. I returned feeling like the race was on and it was time for me to get on the bike and ride … and that I have done nonstop since January.
My major takeaway in these days of leaning in, thriving, and fighting “the overwhelm”, is that riding the bike called TalentFront is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. It has meant getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. In the beginning, I was afraid to spend any money because I didn’t know exactly what to spend it on — enter the business plan, a suggestion from my husband. Next, I wasn’t sure I was ready to hire any help — enter Mel Winn, Biz Fawkes, and Stephanie Sanchez who today make up the TalentFront team. Lastly, I was scared to take a vacation — today, I’m soaking up the sun in Tennessee — not completely untethered, but mostly so. I can’t say I’m riding the bike with no hands, but I’m not falling much these days, mostly in control of the brakes and gears, and starting to enjoy the ride. I owe my progress to people like Bill Reagan of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center, my Planning for Growth Group, Frederique Campagne Irwin of Her Corner, my Alexandria 2 group, and last but not least, Chris Corcoran of Memory Blue who taught me that success breeds success one step at a time … or in this case one turn of the wheel at a time.