Five Years and Counting
If it were my wedding anniversary, I’m sure I would be showered with gifts made of wood and/or silverware made of… I guess silver?!?!? I don’t know. There’s a lot of anniversary gift rules out there and I just have no patience for them.
Regardless, it’s not my wedding anniversary. It’s my anniversary of founding Harvest Insights, and I got myself exactly nothing (although Robin did send flowers, making her the all-time best).
I guess being in business for five years is sort of a big deal, so I’ll take a few minutes to reflect. Here are my Top 3 Lessons - and no they aren’t all sunny…
1) The Guilt Never Subsides – If you’re a working Mom in the U.S., you are going to feel guilty about it at some point. Not all Moms feel the same amount of guilt, and not all Moms quit their successful careers and open a small practice so that they can be home when the bus arrives (that’s reserved for Moms who are a particular brand of crazy like me). What I’ve learned since I posted that very first website where I talked openly about my guilt (memorialized here), is that the story resonates with so many working Moms. It’s the #1 thing women want to talk about when they contact me. Renowned sociologist Caitlyn Collins explains in her new book Making Motherhood Work that we shouldn’t accept that the guilt and conflict between working and motherhood is inevitable. What should we do about it? Yeah, I don’t know. I’m the last person who should answer that question because my solution was probably a bit too drastic and ultimately didn’t kill the guilt completely. Maybe I have to read the book to find the answer.
2) Good Deeds Breed Good Outcomes – When I left my full-time job to start Harvest, it wasn’t just about my family. I also wanted to feel more fulfilled in other areas of my life. I wanted to give back. [Fun Fact: I had a service scholarship in college – the Bonner Scholarship – which required me to do a certain amount of community service every semester and summer.] I felt like my career left little time for me to be involved in worthy causes. Doing good work AND good deeds became a central tenant of Harvest. Within a year, I started the Atlanta chapter of Women in Research and within three years I had fostered and placed roughly 40 shelter puppies in forever homes. Ultimately, dedicating countless hours to these causes can’t be quantified in the bottom line, but the results can be seen in the network of supporters that I’ve built around Harvest (and in the adorable, puppy-themed Holiday cards we’ve sent each year).
3) Be Open with Opportunities, Be Strategic with Decisions – When I started Harvest in 2014, growth really wasn’t in the short-term outlook. There weren’t a lot of decisions to be made after Step 1: quit job; Step 2: find whatever work you can. However, over the years Harvest has sort of evolved as more people have come to understand what we do. We’ve had offers to partner, an offer to be purchased, multiple offers to be on retainer. What I’ve learned in five years is that I can’t jump at every opportunity. It’s important to think through the impact of decisions from all angles. I don’t trust my gut, but I do listen to it. When something is draining my mental energy, that’s a clear sign that we need to look at KonMari’ing something. When an opportunity looks right from a financial angle, I’ve got to pause and make sure it fits with our values. Sometimes I have to reverse course. All of this is to say that we have had growth, but it is very measured and very controlled. Fine…I’ll admit it…I’m a control freak. I’m risk-averse. I’m a contemplator. I’m all of the things that an entrepreneur shouldn’t be, but here I am five years later.
So now we are at the point in the blog where I’m supposed to take these three invaluable insights and tell you what Harvest will look like in five more years. Where are we going? How are we going to get there?
My thoughtful answer…I have no idea. I’m going to see what opportunities present themselves. I’m going to keep ‘doing good,’ and I’m going to manage my Mom Guilt every day. Other than that, we’ll just see where this ride takes us.