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Last week I had dinner with our sales manager and a business growth consultant. The consultant was offering dramatic sales strategies and processes to reenergize, retool, rethink, and train our 16 sales representatives all in an effort to help us realize our vision. It sounded exciting and invigorating to me and so I was “sold” on the spot; ready to set and fire, without taking aim.

Our sales manager was celebrating his 64th birthday when we met. So, as we dined and chatted I wondered to myself, “Why is he so willing to go down this road?” and “Where does all his energy come from?” I’m 40 years old and in the prime of my career, I look forward to the growth of our company with excited anticipation, but “Why?”, I wondered, “Would someone nearing the end of their career still be so excited to implement changes?” What I realized while driving home was that employees at Royal Containers have the “audacity” to do whatever it takes to move forward despite their age. They don’t fear change, they embrace it. They hop out of bed excited to see what the future will hold.

Excited is what we should all be. Despite the fact that headlines continue to focus on finding strategies that will work in a “weak economy”, it’s up to us to decide how we will respond to external factors.

To date, Royal Containers has focused internally on defensive measures to ensure our operational efficiencies keep us in the game. Here’s what I believe we should be asking: Do you have what it takes to succeed in the next normal? Can you energize your employees enough to risk the comforts of normal? Do you have the “audacity” to execute despite loud external forces? Are you an entrepreneur of thought and creation?

From personal perspective, I think I’ve always been this way. I remember running in a local triathalon and finding out afterward that I had qualified for Ironman Canada (this was a big jump in terms of distance; the Ironman is a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike ride, and a 42 km run).

I asked my coach at the time, “Do you think I can be ready to finish the race? It’s in four weeks.”

The answer was a resounding “no”. I finished that race and went on to finish 10 more. Yet each and every year, friends and family continue to ask me the same question, “When will it stops?”

There are those in my network that don’t share my belief that I can continue to compete in Ironman events while at the same time being a wife and mother to three children and leading my company. I admit it does require exceptional time management skills (I am NOT on Facebook), having the capacity to ask for help and lean on others for support, and setting solid priorities.

What I set out to accomplish isn’t impossible to balance, but it has required that I be courageous enough to say, “JUST WATCH ME!” when others challenge my decisions.

This year I’m serving the corrugated industry as Chairman of the Board for AICC (Association of Independent Corrugated Converters). I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel to the U.S. and give presentations on topics that I believe have contributed to our success. I love to speak on the theme of “authenticity”. The term resonates with me because it’s what my father’s company, Royal Containers Ltd., was built on. A culture and attitude based on trust, fairness, loyalty, and, above all, honesty.

What I’m learning all the time is that you can’t grow a business through dramatic changes if you don’t hold up the principles that got you there. Don’t compromise on values, but feel free to create a culture of change, innovation and creativity.

As the leader of the company, my key role is to support the employees. When asked what that means, I describe my job as simply helping to prepare people for change. Empowered employees know what it takes to succeed because they’re listening for and seeking opportunities. I challenge my employees to question whether they’re authentic in the eyes of the customers and whether they have the audacity to realize their passion. This is a winning combination!

There’s so much to learn as the business climate changes, as people and culture change, but for now, I’ve found the five following themes keep my business and personal life on the right track. I don’t feel stress when I have too many things to do – I feel energized and motivated!

  1. Focus On Results
    This year I learned an important lesson from a mentor of mine: “Why should we pay employees to talk about their problems when they themselves have the solutions?” I would rather spend time talking about solutions and opportunities than listening to story-telling.
  2. Don’t Just Delegate… Lead!
    One of the greatest things about leadership is that anyone can do it! You don’t need to be the CEO to be the leader. Challenge yourself to seek the great leaders in your company and then help them grow!
  3. Have A Learning Attitude
    An interesting fact is that only 10% of employees have a learning mind. They love to learn new ideas, read books, research, etc., while 90% see those things as a waste of time.
  4. Have A Vision & Celebrate It Often
    One thing business owners have in common is their ability to “see” the end results and the desired outcome, even when the majority of their employees can’t see it. Communicate this effectively to your employees so that they know how they’re contributing to the vision.
  5. Empower & Inspire
    Encourage those around you to feel responsible for the desired results. They’re responsible and accountable for the growth of the company. The team wins if everyone is doing his or her job!