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Embracing Groundlessness, an Entrepreneurs Journey - Dashboard NY

19 August 2020

{5 min. read} In her latest book, More Myself, Alicia Keys shares her journey towards authentic self-expression.  Full of uplifting insights on life’s journey, considering the context of today’s pandemic, this quote struck me as particularly powerful:

“Nothing but uncertainty is certain. Circumstances come together, only to fall apart moments or months later. And then, in a flash, we must rise up and regain our footing.  In the rearview mirror, I now see so clearly what escaped me then: It’s not that the ground underneath me was suddenly shifting; it’s that it is never still. That’s part of the work of my journey – getting comfortable with life’s groundlessness.”

Alicia Keys, More Myself.

Groundlessness…

is when we all had to scramble and pivot once we knew what was is no longer. With the pandemic, for example, look at all the businesses that were doing great one day and yet faced total obliteration with less than 24 hours’ notice.

Meanwhile, some of our Dashboard’s clients decided that they would be shifting back into “start-up mode” all over again.  Recognizing that the ground shifted underneath them, they then began to rebuild. And I can see the change: they are much more thoughtful today about spending and more cautious of the people they hire. 

In conversations with our clients, we talk about the distinction between “need to have” versus “want to have.” This reminds me of when I FaceTime with my 3-year-old grandson and he wants his mother’s cell phone. He starts with “I want…”  followed by “I want to have…;” and, when he sees he is not getting anywhere, he then proclaims “I need to have.” This doesn’t change the outcome for him, but it is a lesson for us all. 

Groundlessness…

is when CEOs call our company realizing that their ground is shifting and it’s time to know their numbers, as intuition alone could not fill out their PPP Loan applications. They needed accurate numbers, fast!

As many small businesses have learned, now is the time to stop thinking that your accounting department is just a burdensome overhead expense. Instead, understand the numbers as your lifeblood and know that the right CFO applies human skills, like creativity and foresight, to improve the decision-making process.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting “creative accounting” as fraud; instead, having a higher level of discourse about your numbers is an opportunity to find unique ways of solving some of your businesses’ most significant problems.

Groundlessness…

is when you think you got there and then the ground shifts yet again. In moments like this, it’s easy to be scared, to feel hopeless. 

As leaders, we know how important it is to show up and be transparent; yet, we are also responsible for generating optimism amidst this storm. What an acknowledgment of the groundlessness offers us is the opportunity to re-imagine our businesses. It’s an invitation to innovation.

For example, we have a NYC-based client in the restaurant business. Once the pandemic hit, they became the food vendor to charities and individual donors feeding front-line workers. They kept themselves relevant by adding that element to their business. They also focused their attention on creating positive, at-home dining experiences. They chose not to open outside seating, but to use all their resources towards becoming great at delivery.

Another example is clothing manufacturers. While struggling to sell all their inventory at a deep discount, many have decided to venture into a new fashion category: face-masks. An undoubtedly wise move, as this is an accessory that will be here for a long time.

Groundlessness…

is when I started my business eight years ago, thinking that being a good CFO qualified me to run a business. I never knew the meaning of “not knowing.” But once I decided this is what I wanted to do, I got laser-focused and failure was not an option. 

There were many detractors. I’d hear things like, “You’ll never make it,” “this field is too crowded.” I knew at least I could take comfort in the fact that at least I wasn’t selling promotional items. It seemed like practically everywhere I went, those days promotional vendors were trying to pitch me on why they were different.

When I launched DashboardNY, one of my earliest business contacts was this banker who gave it to me straight:  “Your issue will be that people won’t believe you have staying power! Too many CFO-types who lose their job hang out a shingle, and as soon as a new opportunity presents itself, they beeline straight back to being an employee.” 

I knew that I wanted to build a solid business, not a job. That woman’s comment woke me up. I refused to be a statistic and I’m proud to say we’ve beaten those odds!

On this journey, the ground has never stood still. Once I realized there was so much I didn’t know, I began to understand that asking for help was a sign of strength, not weakness. That realization is what allowed me to get out of my own way and find the right resources to guide me.

And as I sat in quarantine, I took the time to truly reexamine everything in my business. As a result, the organization has become stronger! That’s in part because I embraced the uncertainty rather as opportunity.

I am forever grateful for the wake up call I received that day from the banker. Today, I’m pleased to say she’s become one of my best supporters, an excellent sounding board and a close, personal friend.

But then, there are those days when the ground seems to be shaking even harder than yesterday! In moments like that I say, “Alexa, play Alicia Keys” and I dance to “This Girl is on Fire.” Not only is this a great boost of energy, it’s also a chance to get some exercise… super important when we’re all stuck working from home.

So with that, I wish you the best on your business journey! It takes a true hero to face the groundlessness of entrepreneurship, especially in the midst of a pandemic. If you need support or want to connect, feel free to reach out!

As we well know in times like this, we are #StrongTogether!

Carol Soman CPA
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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  • August 19, 2020
  • By Carol Soman
  • Category: General

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