We all are faced with plenty of decisions throughout our lives and the lives of our businesses—some small, some monumental. And we never know in the moment whether we’re making great decisions . . . or great mistakes, at least not until later when we have a chance to look back. Hindsight is a beautiful thing.
In looking back on my own life, it’s clear to me (now, with hindsight) which decisions put me on a path to success. Here are five of the most important ones. Perhaps you have been—or will be—faced with similar decisions of your own.
Sweaty Bus or Ralph Lauren?
OK, perhaps it sounds like a no-brainer to go for the modeling career, but basketball was important to me and I was talented. I’d been a ball girl since I was four and could hold my own on a court full of guys, so I knew I’d make a college team. But I also knew that I was not the type of person who excelled at learning from books in a classroom, which was what I’d be doing if I went to college. I wanted the world to be my classroom.
So I said no to basketball and accepted the offer from a modeling agency in Tokyo—despite my mother’s objections (who worried about her daughter having the “crazy” life of a model in faraway lands). From my modeling career I got to travel the world and soak in other cultures all over the planet. I learned about all different kinds of foods and their positive or negative effect on health, and I stashed away my knowledge for my as-yet-unknown future business.
Returning to the Comfort of Grandma’s Cooking and Grandpa’s Organic Garden
Fifteen years later, when I’d had my fill of modeling and traveling the world, I returned to the States. At first I was aimless, unsure what direction to take next. So I sought comfort in the kitchen, which had always brought me a sense of well being in my formative years. I drew from my grandmother’s recipes and my grandfather’s wisdom about a fresh, healthy diet. And from there sprouted the first recipes that would set roots and grow into thinkThin.
The decision to seek refuge in the comfort of cooking healthful food turned out to be a far more important decision than I understood at the time.
Tick, Tick, Tick . . .
Many female entrepreneurs get so wrapped up in their work that they don’t hear their biological clock. Some perhaps believe that they can’t be both entrepreneurs and mothers. I seemed to be on that track as a 35-year-old CEO of a burgeoning company called thinkThin, when I woke up one day and knew I had to have children! What a great decision that has been. Not only do I get to have the fulfillment of helping two youngsters become good people in the world, but I’ve learned so much about being a better business leader. Who knew?
What business skills have I learned or honed from being a mom? You name it. I’ve become better at multi-tasking and negotiating; I’ve raised my EQ (empathy quotient) and my level of emotional intelligence; I’ve widened my perspective and become more human; and I relate better to moms (a big component of thinkThin’s consumers). Thanks to my children I’m a better businesswoman today.
Sometimes Less Is More
There came a time in the life of my company when I decided we needed to change the packaging to match the product more accurately. More and more bars were appearing in food markets, and there was a cacophony of loud labels cramming the 18 feet of shelf space. I listened to my gut—my intuition—and it said: white space—or more accurately, cream-colored space.
Everyone I talked to said, “No, that’s all wrong. You have to stand out. You have to grab the shoppers’ attention with bright colors and lots of promises.” But my gut said: cream-colored and simple. I went so far as to make a mock-up and drag my team down to Whole Foods market. I put the mock-up on the shelf, we hid around the corner, and then we walked by the shelves of protein bars and sports bars. And guess what? Because the label was simple and fresh . . . it popped. Our bar stood out.
It was the best decision I ever made for thinkThin, and it propelled me forward as a business leader.
Rising to the Occasion
All entrepreneurs wonder when the right moment is to bring in more capital to propel your business to the next level. It’s not an easy thing to discern; timing is everything. And it won’t be the same answer for any two businesses. How did I know when the right moment was?
For me it took a combination of watching trends in the lifestyle brand category, discerning whether we had a loyal consumer base, and listening to my intuition. By 2011 thinkThin had reached that right moment. I just knew it. Consumption was rising, people were locating and buying our bar even when it was placed in the lower left-hand corner of shelf space. We had loyal consumers who would follow us anywhere. Now it was just a matter of casting a wider net, and that took more capital. It was time to approach a private equity firm.
The decision to bring in a financial partner has paid off royally; it put thinkThin more firmly on the map, gave me security, and grew a powerful team.
If any of these decisions ring true in your own life or business, we’d love to hear your experiences.
Image credit: CC by Roman Boed