When building your business, it is guaranteed that you will encounter roadblocks. Adversity is a natural part of growth, however if you don’t have the right tools to overcome it, your progress can easily become stunted. For some small businesses starting out, progress can halt completely.
We sat down with Julia O’Grady who is the owner and president of ITM Events, an established full-service event planning company. Together we discussed her journey in the industry and how she has personally dealt with setbacks. Her ten years of experience in the events field, combined with her work as a senior analyst for the Canadian federal government, makes Julia the perfect person to ask.
She described a defining moment in her career to us. Several years ago, one of her festivals that was underway was suddenly faced with an oncoming storm. Julia, standing on a high point above the open street event, looked down at the vendors and event-goers that filled the street. A wave of dark clouds slowly approached.
“I’m watching this storm coming across the sky,” Julia began. “And I’m like, ‘Oh my god
I’m not qualified for this. Oh my god, what am I gonna do.’” At the time, she took a deep breath and reminded herself that she was fully qualified for this.
“It excited and it scared the crap out of me but scared me in a good way because I was like, ‘Okay, I got this and I’m meant for great things, so let’s just do this.’” Without hesitation, she went on to handle the situation flawlessly. In that moment, Julia made a key choice that defines who she is as an entrepreneur. By believing in herself and her abilities, she conquered not only the situation but also the internal struggle that everyone faces when starting out.
Do or die
We asked Julia how she deals with moments of doubt, like the one she experienced at the festival. Highs and lows are to be expected when working in any field, especially when you’re in charge.
“If you think about it too much, that’s where you’re gonna fail. It’s do or die.” Julia expressed her determination when meeting her clients expectations. She takes the problem away from herself and focuses on what’s important, which is delivering the final product.
“I think that’s a principle you can apply to almost any business – think more of the client and less about yourself.”
Mistakes aren’t failure
“Failure’s not an option. We all make mistakes, and there are mistakes that can be made that are super simple and we can fix them.” Julia spoke about failure as something not up for discussion. However, fixing your mistakes is learning.
There are ways to avoid hitting that wall of failure, such as documenting your process. Keeping track of everything you say and do not only holds you accountable for your work, but also provides you with something to look back on.
Go one step further and look to others for advice. Julia recommended taking the time to read business books and do research before you jump into anything. “Why reinvent the wheel? If the system is clearly working, you should be following these people, because you’re probably not smarter than them.”
Push your comfort zone
There’s a huge amount that you can learn from those around you, which is why Julia goes out of her way to surround herself with people who are smarter than her.
“You get in your comfort zone, you only want to be in a room with people who are as smart as you are so you don’t feel like the dumbest person in the room. You always want to be the dumbest person in the room because then you can absorb from everyone else,” Julia said, putting emphasis on the fact that she does this to grow.
Always aim for higher than where you are. Performing your best requires something to drive you there. Thinking that you know what you’re doing won’t help, because to grow you need to be able to take on new information.
Every entrepreneur’s experience will be unique, but these trials are universal. Challenging yourself on a daily basis is the practice you need for when life throws those bigger wrenches into your business machine.
Give our podcast a listen to hear more about Julia’s experiences throughout her career and her advice for small and large business owners. To learn more about ITM Events, visit their website