I was just 21 when I started Total Image Group. I’d been around family business my whole life, so the concept of running a business wasn’t new to me. In fact, I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t hearing about business, reading about business or dreaming about having my own business. To say it’s in my blood is an understatement.
With all of this history and passion, nothing however could prepare me for the reality of actually owning and running my own business! At 21 I was full of passion. I was fiery, quick to act and didn’t shy away from getting my hands dirty. I took on whatever needed to be done, to propel us towards growth. From pitching our solutions, to negotiating with suppliers, to packing orders and printing out shipping labels. If it needed to be done, I could do it.
With all the positives that my passion and fieriness brought to the business, it also meant a tendency to act fast and pay for it later. An early lesson for me as a business owner was the power of counting to ten. I realised in tense meetings, or when something had gone wrong, I didn’t need to instantly respond (and regret it later), instead I could take ten seconds, to gain composure and deliver a more considered response.
Settling into the role of leader didn’t come immediately for me. I had no hesitation in making decisions and steering the business, but I was hesitant to wear the title and with the perception that I was untouchable, I had to adjust my expectations of how people would treat me. Many people cautioned me that to be successful I needed to take the emotion out my leadership style, not be friends with my staff and not get personal.
For me this was too much a disconnect with who I was and my personal values. Growing up in an ethnic family, we are all about nurturing, supporting and being and active part of your community. So, in my business it felt misaligned to be any different. I found by embracing my staff and treating them as family, I got more from them. More loyalty, commitment and passion – which is a driving value of our business.
As the business grew, I also needed to remove myself from the day to day. As we all hear, to spend more time on the Business, not in the Business. I brought a team together of senior managers, finding the right people I could depend on and empowering them to make decisions. This process of course is not easy, it took over 12 months to find the right people, and then to settle them in – both allowing them to grow into these roles but also building my trust so that I could really let go and step back. Our weekly meetings are an invaluable way that I give the best of me as a leader, without holding up anyone up and empowering them for success.
Having a passionate and engaged team is so important, as is having a tribe around you, outside of your business that can help push you to be your best. Whether that be an amazing business coach, or a personal growth consultant or in my case an accountability group of like-minded business owners that are so committed to pushing each other to succeed.
Reflecting on my journey growing this business, I can see like many business owners starting out I tried to do it all. But over time I realised that in fact I couldn’t wear the hats well. I burnt myself out several times trying and had to readjust my approach. Even when I wore multiple hats well, business growth was limited by my time. To grow a business, you need to learn to let go.
So, 14 years on from the fiery and passionate 21-year-old with a lot to learn, I am often asked if it’s gotten easier over time. My honest answer is, it doesn’t get easier, the challenges just change. My journey has seen my business grow, but also, I myself grow immensely as a person and as a leader. I believe if you keep pushing, evolving and learning, you adapt quicker and more effectively and grow from every challenge you conquer.
Written by Pamela Jabbour.
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