Better Late than Never 

5 Things I have Learned Since Leaving Corporate America; and why I should have implemented these lessons sooner.


Last May 2021 I went down to the courthouse and opened a DBA (two to be exact). That action coupled with my newly delivered business Tax I.D. number and comptroller papers made me officially legit.

Ready or not, I was a full-functioning entrepreneur.    

I was thrilled!  

Leaving a corporate role, I was confident I would have more open time on my schedule.

Thoughts such as, “Finally, I will find balance,” “I will answer to no one,” and, “Yes! My kids will see me more!” ran through my head.   

I just knew it would give me the opportunity to see white space on the calendar. I was not in denial about the fact it would be hard, and I for sure knew I would experience a different level of stress, but I did confidently embrace the idea that many of my disturbances would disappear.

As I look back on the first year, much of what I believed became true, but in typical fashion, none of it transpired how I envisioned. The lessons learned have opened my eyes pointing directly to one of the best tools we have to truly thrive, the mirror.   

I have come to realize that the same situations leading to frustration and success in the corporate world, match the issues directing me to annoyances and victory for my business. 

Here is what I have learned: 


1. The problem starts with me 

2. Treat your boss, your employees, and your relationships as paying clients 

3. Be the navigator of your life and team 

4. Ask for what you want 

5. The cliché is true, “If you don’t see the opportunity you want, create it.” 


1. The problem starts with me.

I would hope during my tenure in corporate America few people would question my passion, love, and work ethic for the roles I was fortunate to hold.   

However, behind closed doors, I always claimed I worked too many hours. High quotas, tight deadlines, and decisions that didn’t go my way were somehow the faults of other people. I was smart enough to keep these challenges to myself or would solely vocalize to a trusted confidant.   

I never understood my ownership in the struggles and the importance for me to set my own boundaries and solidify protective measures in order to thrive.

Lo and behold, when running your own show, there is no one to report to, and it turns out I am at the center of all my “stuff” good or bad. I quickly found myself working too many hours, running extremely fast, and spending time with my kids solely thinking about the to-do list.

The environment changed, but my habits did not. The difference this time was that I had no one to blame but myself.  


What I should have done then and what I do now: 

When I say “yes” to something, it goes on my calendar.

All steps that are needed to accomplish that goal are mapped out, placed in a project management system, and blocked off on my calendar. That means that if I need time to plan a meeting, organize a slide deck, or write a blog, the time it takes to do those things are scheduled.   

In the past, I would block out the exact time of a workshop, but all the preparation for the outcome stayed in my brain.

The work required for completion did not go on the calendar, therefore, other items did, leaving me overworked, strained, and not at my best.   

Tech tip: they have some great project management systems [free versions] out there: Asana, Trello, ClickUp, etc…

When you are a sales leader, on the client success team, or an advisor for the client, you probably would assume those tools are only needed for operations or marketing. However, it allows me to track all my notes, schedule reminders, and follow-ups, then proactively create checkpoints so I do not forget.  (I am not an affiliate and will not get paid for this paragraph, even though that would be nice!) 


2. Treat your boss, your employees, and your relationships as paying clients.

It starts with you, but it is about THEM.  

“Dang it! Another quarterly review, PowerPoint to put together, and metrics to pull just to show that I have been doing my job. It would be a lot more helpful if they would just let me spend the time creating this check-the-box checkpoint, to actually do my job.”  -Stefani circa 2005-2020 

Does this statement sound familiar to you?

When it is time to have another annual review from someone higher up on the corporate ladder than yourself, do frustration and anxiety encompass your thoughts?

That described me for sure. For credibility’s sake, I was “corporate” enough to not voice this out loud, but the above articulates the feelings boiling inside. This was neither helpful nor productive. My focus was all about me and my drama vs. them and their pressure. 


What I should have done then and what I do now:

Consider what the other party is under stress to achieve. Then demonstrate how your efforts are helping them to accomplish those objectives. 

These communication points are such an incredible opportunity to convey success stories and articulate your vision. This creates a platform to suggest new ideas which can expand the realization of their goals and allows you to request help where you need it.    

As an entrepreneur who is delivering a service with a less-than-tangible object, I create these opportunities to dream build. I understand that the more I can effectively express the vision and collect feedback where appropriate, it will help remove obstacles creeping in the way of progress.

Connection and influence are cornerstones of forward movement. I encourage you to not only embrace but create occasions for accountability.   


3. Be the navigator of your life and team.


 “A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others do.”  Leroy Eims

Be a navigator. 

A wise woman once told me that 39 +1 = more than 40.  [1-hour of planning leads to increased productivity during the 39-hours you are not.]

Sometimes we get so caught up in our day-to-day drama, we invite the tasks we must execute to control our minds and stifle our attitudes.   

Run. Do. Drive. Execute.   

These words replace – plan, envision, dream build, and guide.  The team you lead and the family you raise need you to be their visionary. They require you to see 3-steps ahead and to plan for the seen and the unseen.   


What I do now and what I should have done then: 

I take time to plan and organize.

It is out of my comfort zone.

I am at my best when I am in front of people, conversating, and dream-building. In order to do that most effectively; however, I need to make sure I am in front of the right people, asking the best questions, and preparing for the time needed to pivot as issues arise.

I ask myself these questions and based on the answers, the path is charted. I encourage you to do the same.

There are thousands of reiterations for this type of self-reflection and forward-thinking. I also usually consider the view of a 3-year and 5-year plan as well.

Regardless of the questions you choose to ask, what is most important is that you pause long enough to do so and that your next step involves action. Your boss should not be delegating a path to you.

Build your own plan, chart the course, then align upwards accordingly.

You are placed in this role for a reason. Dream big and navigate step by step towards the goal.  


4. Ask for what you want.

Recently I was on a coaching call. What is unique and freeing about having a coach is you get a safe place to word vomit all personal drama out of your mouth. Then, a paid professional cleans it up, asks thought-provoking questions, and encourages a defined path forward. It saves you from looking like an idiot in front of everyone by allowing the reckless thoughts to be filtered privately.    

I would be retired on a beautiful yacht off the coast of Italy if I had one dollar for every time the thought-provoking question I ask is…

“Did you ask for it?”

This is one of those concepts that I personally never struggled with. Maybe it’s because I was so poor growing up that desperation naturally led me to the declaration of one’s desires.   That said, I am mind-boggled at the number of people who do not clearly articulate what they want and then go for it.  

  • If you think your organization should invest in new technology, suggest it, try it yourself, then ask for it.   
  • If you would like to be a part of a particular team, declare it. 
  • If you want the promotion, go for it.  

My son has picked this up naturally. When a waitress asks our table “Do you need anything else?” he inevitably says, “One million dollars please?” I understand that the chances of her responding with “Here you go baby!” are slim to none, but he understands that he has literally zero to lose, so “what the heck” he thinks and then asks for it.  

I encourage you to do the same.    


5. The cliché is true, “If you don’t see the opportunity you want, create it.”

It sounds so silly to say this out loud, but the Pinterest boards and Instagram memes are true.

I remember entering the auditorium of the first International Maxwell Leadership Conference as a business owner.  The lights were bright, the people were incredible and it felt just like winning a trip for being top of the leaderboard. 

What was different from before? Not much, it was just my own.

My best friend wanted to be able to stay home with her kids by the time they reached school ages. So, she took a risk, started a business, grew a team, and now runs a carpool with luxe highlights and manicured nails. She started from nothing but acted with every bone in her body. 

I wanted to create, inspire, and succeed [or fail] on my own accord. I believed in sharing faith-based concepts in a secular world with those who chose to learn. The goal was to help each person slow down and see a path before them. I wanted everyone I worked with to own and be okay with their road to success being different from those around them. 

If you want to eat pizza in Italy on a Tuesday, be a department head, only work with very specific clients and people you love, or run an organization to save sea turtles, you can. It does not matter if you are a single mom, a crappy communicator, or sick and tired of being sick and tired.   It is about outlining your steps to get there and executing.

Reaching your dream tomorrow may be a far cry from possible but taking the first and next best step absolutely is not. One day, you’ll look around and pinch yourself, “I cannot believe I have come this far.”  

Go big friend, do not go home.  


Keep growing,

Coach Stef
If we haven’t met, here is a little more about me!  I would love to know more about you too, let’s connect!
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