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15 Years of Challenges – Worth it!

Disruption: disturbance or problems that interrupt an event, activity, or process.
It has taken me awhile…but I have learned to live with “disruption.”
Ribbon Cutting-We’re in Business

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Stroman & Associates. Starting my consulting business has been the single-most rewarding aspect of my professional career, but it was also one of the most challenging. I can’t help but think of some of the obstacles that, at one time or another, felt like they were insurmountable. Here are a few of the more memorable ones.

73 days after I opened the doors to S&A, our world and the history of our nation changed forever. The attacks on September 11, 2001, caused disruption across our country, and it raised doubts in my mind about whether or not my young enterprise could survive such uncertain times. I remember being scheduled to speak at a national conference, but due to the disruption in air travel and the uncertainty, the conference was postponed until the spring of 2002. At the time, I was just hoping my business could make it until spring!

I also remember the first time I unexpectedly lost a client. I had assumed that my engagement with this client would continue to its natural conclusion…but it didn’t. What I expected was “disrupted”, and naturally I felt doubt and anxiety about losing a paying customer. What would I do now?

Then, in late 2007, the nation’s economy began to decline in ways that we had not seen for many years. During that time, I lost 3 clients. I can tell you, at that point I was having serious doubts about whether my family could survive when my business was struggling to make ends meet.

But I persisted. 15 years and still going strong! I don’t tell you this to pat myself on the back. Instead, I want to point out the common theme from all 3 stories. I bought into the fallacy of believing that what is at the moment will always be. When disruptions came along, it was difficult to envision how I could correct my course.This fallacy works on both sides!  When things are going exceptionally well and I feel I am at my maximum client-load, it’s tempting to think that this is how it’s always going to be. That’s false thinking! On the other hand, when things are bleak and it seems like I might not make it, there’s a tendency to despair because I can’t imagine things will get better.

I tell you all this to encourage you to examine yourself honestly.  Check to see if you’re dealing with this “what is will always be” fallacy in your own life. Perhaps professionally things are going great and you’ve never been more fulfilled. When this season ends (which I hope is not for a long time, Kent), how will you react?  And vice versa. Are you so mired in despair that you’ve lost sight of why you began your particular course of action in the first place?

Here’s the good news.  As I reflect on 15 years, I don’t dwell on the challenges. I think mainly about the relationships I’ve formed! Each year when I get ready to send out Christmas cards, I am reminded of how blessed I am. I like to send holiday greetings to clients – not just current clients, but clients from previous years and prospective clients. It has been extremely rewarding to meet and serve so many people. The challenges mentioned above, which seemed so huge at the time, feel much smaller when I consider the relationships I’ve developed and the people I’ve been able to help.

Persistence and perspective have made the past 15 years some of the best years of my life. Thank you for being a part of them!
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