2011 : The Year of New

I know this blog is covered in digital cobwebs since I haven't posted anything in a while.  This is my year end recap that I posted to Brooke Courtney Photography.  It explains why.  One of my goals in 2012 is to write more so this blog should have a lot more posts! Last year, I wrote a year end re-cap about 2010 being the best year of my life. While this year certainly topped last year, it was a very different type of year.  2011 was the year of new. Brooke and I did a lot of things for the first time, with the two biggest things being opening a store and opening up Brooke Courtney Photography to a team.  These two changes have taught me some very important lessons and I thought that I would share those with you.  This post is especially for you entrepreneurs, leaders, visionaries and managers out there.

1. Stress : I found out this year that I was doing too much.  I found myself not spending time with Brooke, my family and myself.  Now I didn't just lock myself in a room and work away like Quasimodo in the bell tower, but looking back I wish that I spent some more time doing things that really bring joy to my heart.  This year I am having monthly projects - things I want to do that don't have anything to do with work, like organize the garage, making shelves for the closet and so on.  They aren't big visionary things, but they are things that I keep putting off, things that I know when done, will make life feel more full and Brooke super happy.  I think that if I would have spent more time doing those things I would have stressed less about money, timing, employees and logistics.

2. Patience : I thought that the store would open, millions of people would flock to it and I would sleep on a yacht for the rest of my life.....not really. I don't like boats. But! I did think that as soon as the doors to the store flung open all my work would pay off, and then I learned a little bit about patience.  The store is doing well, but I think I had false hopes to how fast it would grow. I've learned that the work isnt' done, that doing something big and great doesn't happen overnight and takes time, work and that magical word I have no time for - patience.  I've also learned that with patience comes commitment.  I've had to ask myself, "How big do you want to see these businesses get? and Are you willing to wait however long it takes to get there?"  If you can't say yes to the latter then what are you doing in business?

3. Team Members : This year we added two team members to the photography team and an intern.  We added nine (for the first time ever!) in the walk in love. store.  We now have one photography team member and two interns on the BC team - and seven team members at the store.  When growing your business and adding team members (we call them team members because employees just work for a paycheck, team members work to make things better) things become a lot more challenging.  Brooke and I were so use to doing things our way and we figured out quickly that you couldn't just add extra people to that and expect them to jump right in and be exactly where we are.  We have found, through trial and error, how to work with our team members, which include some of our best friends and family.  It's taking time, open communication and patience to have a team - and those are three things that would not be listed under my strengths. Naturally, this has been one of the hardest parts of the year for me. We've lost a team member from Brooke Courtney and that was hard to take.  We felt like a family member was leaving, but like all things, we have to learn from it.  We have to choose to be better and with a new intern coming this summer we will have the ability to do just that.  The store also lost two team members, but something the store did this year was amazing -  it brought a relative group of strangers together, it gave us a common ground to know each other and share with each other.  Three of my best friends work at walk in love. and one of them works at both.  That is amazing.  Having a team is hard and it requires a lot patience, listening and understanding, but mostly it requires trust.  I have to trust every day that whoever is working at the store or shooting a wedding is doing a great job and that is hard to do, but worth it.

4. Strength: It is there. There were a few experiences that really stretched me this year and made me question if I could do all this, if I could keep it up.  The main one was having the store move.  I remember getting the phone call (telling us we had 30 days to relocate our entire store) and instantly feeling like I was going to throw-up.  I remember thinking that the dream was over - the store would move, people wouldn't find us and all the work, money and sweat we put into it would be for nothing.  I thought that I was going to end up a failure and my friends and family would abandon me.  I know a lot of that is not logical, but it's what accompanied that news.  I didn't think we could do it - lose money on our first location, move and catch up - but that's when I found it.  The strength.  I found it within, through the power of God, that I could push through this horrible news and overcome.  Strength was shown to me in the most by my Aunt Helen.  From the time we heard the news to the time we had to move, my cousin Carmen died in an accident.  She had just graduated high school and was on vacation with her family when it happened.  It came as a shock to our entire family.  Funeral plans were made and we all traveled to western Pennsylvania to say our goodbyes.  It was here, when I watched my Aunt Helen take to the microphone, that I learned a little bit about strength.  Listening to my Aunt say goodbye to her daughter and then watching her sing "It is well with my soul" was the most valiant act of strength I have ever seen in my life.  It was that amazingly, powerful display of strength and courage that has showed me it is possible to push through.  I am not trying to compare the moving of a store to the loss of a daughter, but what Aunt Helen put on display was empowering and incredible.  It is that type of strength that comes through Christ and his spirit and when I remind myself of it, I am overwhelmed with courage.

5. Tomorrow : There were times this year that we were ready to give up, that we couldn't go on, but that's when were reminded of tomorrow.  Tomorrow is coming and with tomorrow comes hope, new dreams and a new chance.  I hope that if you are out there in a hard place, trying to make it you would never forget that.  Tomorrow is coming and there is always hope.