Pressure Like a Drip, Drip, Drip

What I’ve learned in one year of running a business

If you have a young child in your home, chances are you’re singing Encanto songs under your breath at all hours of the day … not necessarily because you want to, but because they’re so damn catchy you just can’t help it.

The other night around 2:30 a.m. I found myself singing in my head, “We don’t talk about Bruno no no…” over and over in my head, even hitting my teeth together to the beat and moving my fingers to the tune as if I was playing the piano. Because, this is what one does at 2:30 a.m., right?

Well, it’s what I found myself doing and what I had found myself doing for the past few nights, actually. At first I was blaming my fitful nights on Mercury Retrograde, the insane amount of stink bugs still trying to take up residence in my house, and the puppy who likes to sleep on my head … and neck … and back.

But then I was reading Greg McKeown’s bestselling book Essentialism, and one section hit home:

“The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years.

Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality. Somehow we would now be able to have multiple ‘first’ things.

People and companies routinely try to do just that. One leader told me of this experience in a company that talked of ‘Pri-1, Pri-2, Pri-3, Pri-4, and Pri-5.’ This gave the impression of many things being the priority but actually meant nothing was.”

Initially I laughed to myself when I read this. How many times have I talked through a business owner’s goals with him or her and then followed up by asking, “So what of these are top priorities?” These “priorities” are then what dictates the marketing strategy we write.

But McKeown is correct: a company cannot have multiple priorities. If all goals are first priority, then nothing gets our full attention. Sure, we claim we can multitask, but really that means we’re diverting our attention back and forth between multiple things—not that we are thinking about multiple things at one time.

And that is exactly what I’m doing at 2:30 a.m. more often than not: I’m thinking about multiple things: conversations I’ve had that day, meetings coming up the next day, unnecessary worrying that we won’t get the draft of the design done in time even though we always meet a deadline. Because in my own business, I struggle with prioritizing what’s most important. To me, every single client is just as important as the next. It’s also extremely important to me that they know how important they are; their trust in me is what keeps our business going.

When I left my job exactly a year ago, I was afraid … so afraid that I said yes to everything that came my way. Need new copy for your website? I’m on it! Need 25 email sequences? I’m your girl. Want a new production schedule for your publication? I can crush a spreadsheet. My fear of having no work created this frenzied approach to taking on anything and anyone who would pay me.

“Just give me three months,” I told my husband when I first left my job. “If I don’t have any clients in three months, I’ll look for a full-time job.”

A year later, TealHaus Strategies has six employees and 25 active clients. In addition, we partner with two agencies—one in Atlanta and another in Akron—to assist with their work. And what’s coming down the road for us? I can say with full certainty that we will have even more clients and partnerships, as well as other streams of revenue completely different from our marketing company.

A year later, I’m no longer saying yes to everything. In fact, now I’m learning how to say no. A year prior, TealHaus was just me. But now TealHaus is a group of six passionate, extremely loyal and hardworking women, so when I bring on a new client, it affects all of us. And I’ve learned that my team’s sanity and happiness is much more important than any revenue.

TealHaus Team (photography by Jeremy Fleming)

Last week I had a reiki session with Gina Gatlin of Quantum Wellness. Reiki is an energy-clearing exercise that helps with relaxation and stress. During the session, as I was on the massage table with my eyes closed, Gina said to me, “I can feel you running in circles and asking questions to the atmosphere.” I laughed and nodded. She said, “The spirits are telling me to tell you to stay put. Hang out here for a bit. This is about the journey.”

She was right. Whether you believe in spirits and reiki or any of the things, you’ll probably agree that having multiple priorities will only result in feeling more and more pressure, and lately I’ve felt like Encanto’s freakishly larger older sister Luisa whose “gift” it is to shoulder the weight of everyone in the family. “Pressure like a drip, drip, drip that will never stop,” she sings (and so does my five-year-old daughter, over and over and over again).

Now, one year into this, I’m growing and learning. And I’m prioritizing. At the top of the list for me is trusting my incredibly intelligent, hardworking team to do what they do best. And damn are they doing an amazing job.

Here’s to year two.

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