Stay on Your Mission and Reclaim Your Most Valuable Resource

Time Watches

Never Going Back” by The Score 🎵

In 2017, Maxine Waters (D-California) interrupted former US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin who wasn’t answering her questions about Trump’s financial ties to Russia.

Every time he stalled or avoided her questions, she said “I am reclaiming my time.”

It’s really important to reclaim your time to stay on mission.

Reclaiming Time To Win 2x

My first lesson on how to reclaim my time came in 2014 as part of LaunchPad2x. LaunchPad2x was a program created for women-run businesses run by Bernie Dixon of Atlanta Technology Angels.

You see, I had a problem. I really did not want to let Bernie down, but my company was also in another investment competition that ran on the same day as one of the her programs – they overlapped.

I asked Bernie for advice on whether I should miss her exclusive program or do the competition. I had applied for funding to ATA. She said something along the lines of “It’s your decision. What is best for your business? But also – why can’t your co-founder do it?” She saw right through me.

Just a question. I couldn’t tell if I had f*cked up at first and then I realized I had.
I didn’t scale myself to fix it.

I realized she was being firm – no one is going to placate you in business and sometimes – opportunities don’t have the right timing. Your decisions are yours – better make sure you are making the right one…and you can scale your message across your board…

I gave the pitch of my life and then I had one of our advisors who was more experienced and knew the pitch to rep on our behalf in the audience afterward so I could rush to LP2x – I found out we won. I had to fight for the time and fighting for it was our journey to navigate. We constantly had to battle with a lot on the line. Despite winning the investment competition…there was no actual money to win. And despite going to LP2x, ATA never funded my business.

A lot of LP2x’s training, was about getting as far as possible without taking anyone else’s money which taught me how much more valuable my time was when it was spent on customers instead of on trying to find investors. I began to reclaim it from focusing on trying to find money in that way because it wasn’t working for us. I began selling and created a different type of business.

Time is always more valuable when spent talking to customers, delivering for them, and doing what they want than it is trying to ask for more funding quickly or all the time or when an idea first enters the surface. I learned that If I wanted to fund my ideas: I’d have to spend my own money.

Reclaiming Time Because of Lack of Trust

I do not like to hold grudges. It’s not classy. And it’s not great business. But I won’t lie and say I’m perfect at that. I do tend to hold them to the extent of this question: Has a person or a company provided value in the past, and do I trust them?

If the answer is “No, I do not trust this person/company” then, the truth is, it is going to take more time to build it because it was lost and I’m much more inclined to try with someone new.

I told my husband once “I feel like a jerk for saying ‘no’ to this because I do not want to hold a grudge, but I don’t think I should engage in business with this party.” I felt the party on the other side of the line had forgotten everything I had witnessed in a few scenarios for which their former business was directly accountable. I included the individual in that accountability.

My husband’s response was “You are a good judge of character, and you don’t think this person respects you.”

He was right. I didn’t. I thought it was fake.

I have come to realize one can both not use their past to evaluate the present business circumstances in an effort to always keep doors open.

One can even be willing to forgive on business faux-pas.

And one can do this while simultaneously acknowledging that they don’t have enough evidence a company, a person, or a team will be a good business partner tomorrow based on the greed witnessed in the past that left women behind.

Which means, it is okay to say ‘no’ by simply ranking a party back to “Thank you for your compliments about how great I am (today), but I don’t want to waste my time on me.”

Reclaiming Time Because of Lack of the Right Tenure

Our time is valuable. As we get older, we become even more cognizant of where it goes, constantly analyzing, “Is it in the right place?”

I believe there are two types of founders: (1) People who rush things because of how they were externally funded due to pressure and (2) People who bootstrapped and hit profitability on their own.

Many businesses will be gone in 5 years because 45% of new business startups fail in that timeframe. In a moment of a decision on a pitch or a product, we must ask “Can I guarantee that this product will be around in 5 years?” Because I can’t often due to how the board tenure looks and funding is setup.

I don’t decline because a product doesn’t have women founders, but believe me, I’m happy for that to be a good reason to say ‘no’ as someone who both had a mother and grandmother who ran successful businesses on their own (3 generations of business owners). Rather, I decline because, simply, I don’t believe often the founding team is setup for success both due to lack of diversity and due to lack of the right tenure. Tenure for me, is having had exposure to profitability without external investment or demonstrative examples of bootstrapping. De-risking is having experienced truly working within the limits of financial constraints.

Most, and I do mean most, of the reasons I do not pick up cold calls or respond to cold emails is because many fall into this category of a board with the wrong kind of executive leadership, funding, and advisement for me to de-risk the ask being proposed from the perspective of survivability, product and opportunity not included.

Reclaiming Time Because it Puts You Off Mission

This is actually the most common reason I say ‘no.’ Individuals should be really clear about their missions. My mission is to support a (1) healthy liveops culture through cultural changes that innovate business efficiency, (2) focus on infrastructure architectural progress that drives stability, and (3) advocate for the people I am responsible for each day and the technologies they propose to pursue. If a product meets these missions, then often I am already reaching out in reverse, not waiting.

A LOT of times people will try to relate to you by comparing their mission to your mission in an effort to see if there is alignment – that’s okay. Shoot your shot. Just know that it very well might not be and more importantly, for those trying to reclaim their time, be willing to say “This puts me off my mission.” We are often encouraged to leave the paths we are on, explore new territory, learn new things in an effort to grow scope. But we MUST MAKE SURE we are doing this at the RIGHT TIME and investing the right amount of time for each milestone.

It is hard each week with new ideas, new technologies, and change to stay on mission in order to make sure the existing quarterly, yearly, and 3 year ones get donePivoting is a choice. We must use it wisely or we become the asshole. 

This week, I thought About Reclaiming Time

I held on a decision for a day asking for my time that I shouldn’t have, and I’m embarrassed for that. Being usually accurate and decisive in a time boxed window is something I’m proud of with regards to business.

I talked to a mentor I work with about this decision because I thought I may have read the situation wrong and had bias. I said “I want to say ‘no’ to this opportunity and here is why.” and he said, “Good job. I agree.” 

That was enough to make me realize a value I’ve always believed – it’s okay to pause before saying ‘no’ to get feedback. That is time well spent.[3]

Header Image by Heather Zabriskie from Unsplash.

[3] This is the third clue to the puzzle.