Keep Them Out of Your Head…

By Angela Michael

Recently, I was visiting the showroom of an accomplished woman who runs her own custom order clothier startup that makes women’s suits using the same fine Italian fabrics used in luxury menswear. Her vision for scaling her business garnered the attention of a well-known menswear designer. Yet during our conversation, she seemed to be anxious, second guessing moving her business forward after having a discouraging conversation with a colleague.

The colleague served on the board of a group of angel investors where she hoped to raise capital.  The owner had been encouraged to pitch her business plan to him first; she later learned that the colleague was working on a similar niche business in the same target market. Even with an understanding of his motives or lack of motivation, she remained bruised and distracted by his comments.  I looked at her and said: “get him out of your head.” Surely a top menswear designer is a better constituent and may be able to connect you with more investors.

Sarah Blakely, who founded and built a luxury $1Billion women’s undergarment business from the ground up, once said that when she got her business idea she didn’t tell her friends, family, or colleagues. Her reason: doubt kills.

You’re already carrying your own fears, so why let others into your head? Ms. Blakely revealed that she couldn’t count on them for validation or to see beyond how they knew her to date (she had been selling office equipment at the time) or where she was going.  Her goal was to prove her new business to herself first, so instead, she squashed the chatter that could be in her head before it started.

I recall sharing with a group of friends and colleagues my interest in starting an organic juice bar.  Their response: that’s strange and starting your own business is so hard. They said this with a big emphasis on “strange” and “so hard.” Some even added “that idea would never work here.”

It’s been 15 years since I pitched that idea and today organic juicing is a $6Billion+ global industry with corporate venture arms and private equity scavenging to acquire the next big idea in the sector. Shame on me for letting others get into my head.

In all things, I believe there is great value in protecting your mind. This is what both Ms. Blakely and I needed to do when it came to realizing our dreams.  Second is finding constituency with someone who has been there and done it before; a true visionary with as much conviction for your business and belief in your success as you have, and who is willing to help you think about how to turn the business on its head and push through challenges.

Angela Michael is an executive who has served in various global management, business development, and investment leadership roles for Fortune 500 companies with private equity, corporate investing, and product verticals.  She serves on the Board of ACG New York, chairs its Sponsorship Committee and serves on its Strategic and Financial Planning Committees.  Angela is also a member of Women in the Boardroom which focuses on women in leadership and corporate board service.

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