Dec 31, 2021
by Gabrie Bristol, 2015
As the CEO of a fast-growing customer service company, I don’t often have time to reflect.
Sometimes the push toward progress is so fast and so furious that it's tempting to look backward only in order to put your company’s growth in perspective. For instance, last year we had 250 employees. This year, we're looking at almost 700.
While that kind of reflection can be valuable in budgets and profit and loss forecasts, there’s another kind of reflection that helps to guide and inform our identities and our mission.
I've written many articles on my not-quite-Leave-it-to-Beaver youth. My earliest childhood memory is of my mother being arrested on prostitution and drug charges. Shortly thereafter, I became a child of the foster system. I was adopted into an abusive home and bullied in school.
Things got so bad that just a few months into my senior year of high school, I dropped out and ran away from home. I spent the next several months -- winter months -- homeless.
Ultimately, I moved to California, where I spent time sleeping in parks and homeless shelters until finally, I was able to get on my feet.
Fast forward 25 years, and I’ve earned a reputation as a “turnaround expert,” helping troubled businesses, making tough decisions and returning each one of them to profitability. So far my record is perfect: I've never lost a company to closure.
While I've penned many articles on my overall turnaround strategy, I find that taking the time to reflect on the lessons that informed that strategy to be incredibly helpful in keeping me and everyone else focused on the objective.
Know your worth
Just because I was abused and homeless didn’t mean I was bad. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t worth more or deserved better.
We all have value. If you’re in a bad situation, if your company has had three straight losing quarters, if you have an abusive boss or you’re in a job you hate, you deserve better. It’s OK to want more and to strive for it.
Don’t be a victim
It’s easy to use bad things that happen as an excuse for lowering our own expectations of ourselves or as an excuse to think that the world is conspiring against us.
Break out of that victim mindset. Be a survivor instead, and know that you can accomplish anything.
Just because your company has lost a big customer or has had a run of bad luck doesn’t mean the light at the end of the tunnel is going to be an oncoming train. Realism and optimism can exist in the same space.
Sweat the small stuff
But I’ve found sweating the small stuff -- paying attention to the minutiae, the details -- to be incredibly valuable. If you can be trusted with the details, you can be trusted with the big picture.
Failure has value
The idea that there are valuable lessons in failure isn’t a new one, but how to learn them isn’t immediately obvious.
For me, learning these lessons requires I take a step back, analyze what went right, identify what went wrong, focus more on the details (sweat the small stuff), believe that I deserve success (don’t be a victim) and then try again.
We all get so busy in the day-to-day, lost in our to-do lists, that it's easy to lose focus on our goals and our intentions. Too often we get caught up trying to catch up that we lose a little bit of our identities.
Taking time to reflect back on the road we’ve taken to get here, and to appreciate every bump for the lessons they teach, can be incredibly helpful. Applying those lessons in ways that help us push forward, to progress in our goals, can be invaluable.