Debra Swersky
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Journal

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Traction

Holy cow.

Where are we at? June? 2016? One year ago I was in Rwanda mentally preparing myself to move to Dallas where I had every intention of hitting the ground running… fast. The city was my (new, professional) oyster and I was ready to explore it all and find my place. 

Here’s what happened: I spent a few months trying to acquire startup clients in my spoke-to-hub and then hub-to-spoke model. It didn’t work as quickly as I initially anticipated, so I evolved my offering to include non-technical customer experience evaluations (think positioning and messaging and not UI/UX)… while still consulting on the employee experience (read: on boarding and training). That helped the market wrap their head around my “experience-based” offer, but forced me to extend myself faster than I expected. At the time it also felt farther from my niche than I was ready to go. I wasn’t super comfortable, but I was ready for the challenge to change my pitch… and it turned out to not be that far at all. Then I started to make a name for myself in the community: consistently showing up at events, asking good questions, giving quality feedback, etc. My toes were definitely in the startup community water… I was more like wading than splashing, but not going anywhere super fast. 

And then I took a deep breath and committed to volunteer my skillset to events. It felt silly at the time, but I knew where I could be helpful to people in the community and I knew who I wanted to be working with. I started using the hardcoded skills that I have to make an impact… and the community started to notice. I was no longer a “recent transplant from Boston,” but rather “someone who is working on X event” or “with Y team” or “that writer for Z website” or “so-and-so’s mentor.”

I started to feel useful. But useful was only the start of it. I started to gain traction. I began to be noticed. Let me put it this way: My LinkedIn profile is no longer the first hit on my Google search results. The work that I do, and my name, was being paid attention to… by association. 

And then my strategic groundwork, the spoke-to-hub and hub-to-spoke model, started to take shape. The people that I had spent time meeting with started to resurface. The conversations that we had had previously started to deepen. And, lo and behold, the projects that I pitched started to move forward. Where once I struggled to get the time of day with people, I was now getting requests. And all of those “good questions” that I was asking were opening doors for me to people and companies that I would have never met before. 

What’s my takeaway here? 

(Head Down + Hands Up)(Strategy + Planning) = Traction

No, I have not maxed out my work schedule just yet, but at least I’m making #progress.

Debra Swersky