YES, you actually CAN do it ALL and here is how...
What does it really mean to be a leading #entrepreneur, founder of a #women-owned business, a #working mom? Nothing. That is exactly what it means, unless you have the drive, passion and chutzpah to make it happen for yourself.
The word “NO” is not something I accept. PERIOD. There is always a solution, a work around and a way to problem solve, and you have to want it so badly you just don’t accept anything but that.
Let me take you on my journey that started from naïveté, poor mentorship and wanting to right wrongs in our industry (think GSA scandals) to becoming a leading woman in #meetings, being named a 2018 Smart Meetings Entrepreneur, raising three kids and serving as a role model for today’s budding entrepreneurs. This is not a journey about a mom, a woman, or some kid who was cocky enough to believe she could make a difference. This is about the drive, determination and lessons learned from building and running a business from the dining room table, when I was once told I would never be successful doing it all. And why, by design, I’m still at that same dining table.
This is not about #work-life balance. It’s about so MUCH more. This is about wanting to succeed, wanting to “have it all” and having the gumption to accept nothing less. Why couldn’t I have kids, family, travel and manage a business? Who decided that I couldn’t? Certainly not me. Nor was any stereotype going to clip my wings.
In the early 2000’s I left my job as a corporate meeting planner to be a stay-at-home mom, thinking there was no way I could be both, travel, and raise my son. Boy was I wrong. Having always had a passion for events and NEVER being told I could not do something, I realized very quickly that I could find a way to do both on my terms. It’s about saying SURE, I can do that. And then figuring out how to make it happen. WE ARE CREATIVES. WE ARE PROBLEM SOLVERS. WE MULTITASK. AND WE FAKE IT UNTIL WE MAKE IT. By design, this is the sheer nature of a meeting planner’s skill set. So, I said yes, and got on a plane to plan my first international meeting in Italy. That was in 2005 and, since that time, my business has taken me all over the world planning events and I have had a few more children at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, it was a constant juggle, but on my terms.
When I first started the company in 2002, some of the best advice I ever got when trying to “brand myself” was not to hide behind a name. If I was that confident that I would succeed, I should put my name behind it. So I said to the business world, “I am going to succeed,” and I am backing that up with my name. Jennafer Ross Events, LLC was born and has since grown into JR Global Events, Inc. From starting as an independent planner, JR Global Events has grown to a 2-person partnership with a team of six planners and numerous onsite contractors across the U.S.
The journey from independent planner to meeting production company IS achievable if that is your goal—although I was not sure that was my goal until it actually happened. In 2013, my business partner joined me and that’s when our growth really began. I was fortunate from 2005 to 2013 to have a solid book of business that was good for a sole proprietor. In fact, I was established enough both in my book of business and my experience as a business owner to have “survived” the 2008-2009 crash AND have three children. I MADE A TON OF MISTAKES. But I did not look at those as setbacks, but as opportunities to learn and become better in business and in events. YES, those mistakes certainly hurt my self-esteem, my wallet and made me question myself—for about one minute. Allow yourself to have those moments and then get back up and move forward.
However, the growth that has occurred since I am no longer working IN AND ON our business has changed dramatically. I have watched us grow from the independent planner role with one client and three annual events to a team of eight people who work with 10 clients across all industries. In 2018, our team planned more than 100 events worldwide. Along the way I have learned so many critical business and life lessons, which at the end of the day keeps us humble and appreciative that we get to follow our passion every single day.
We have been fortunate enough to build a company where PEOPLE ACTUALLY WANT TO WORK. This makes me giggle, as I still think of myself as that girl sitting at my dining room table figuring out how to plan an event in a country I have never been to while my babies are taking naps and dinner is in the crockpot. Nonetheless, we have worked to build a company that has a very basic philosophy (and still from the dining room table) – work hard, play hard, don’t take ourselves too seriously. This is NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. We are honest and transparent in EVERYTHING we do – remember, IT’S MY NAME ON THAT CARD – and respect those that work with our team for they also have a story, a personal life and strive for their own versions of work-life balance.
The #JRGlobalEvents Top 10 Secrets of our business longevity and success:
1) Don’t take yourself too seriously (again, not rocket science or life and death).
2) YOUR family always comes first.
3) Be a professional IN EVERY SITUATION. You just never know when you might re-encounter someone. It’s a small industry network.
4) The first night onsite for an event is a TEAM DINNER, NO EXCEPTIONS.
5) Be honest and transparent with our team and our clients.
6) Everyone #telecommutes—no office space here—we invest in people rather than space.
7) Email rules: NO emails are sent to team members or clients prior to 9 a.m. or after 6 p.m. Respect someone else’s personal time and don’t encroach on it, so they in turn (hopefully) will respect yours. Check out #Boomerang through Google Extensions to schedule your drafted emails to send at 9 a.m.
8) If we encounter a life-sucking person (we all know they exist) and I don’t want to interact with them, I am certainly NOT going to ask my team to do so either.
9) WE ARE AN OUTSOURCED COMPANY. As such, we are entrusted by others to manage their events as the experts. Remember that when you are running your business – I am not an accountant, IT technician or HR expert – if you don’t have the expertise, #outsource all of the business services that enable you to follow your passion.
10) Find what makes you happy, be #passionate and stay true to who you are as a person. If you don’t build your dreams, someone else will hire you to build theirs.