Saturday, April 28, 2007


Work ON your business, not in your business was the key message to Bev McMaster’s talk on Wednesday night. And she should know. She grew We Care Health Services from a home-based business to 50 franchises across Canada, but it wasn’t without a price.

She found it hard to let go, and insisted on being involved in every aspect of the business, all this while working to maintain a marriage and raise four children. Something had to give and it did. Her marriage ended and her health suffered. It wasn’t until she was through her depression that she realized she needed to trust the people she’d hired to get on with their job, so she could get on with leading the company.

She called it Founder’s Syndrome and cautioned the audience not to fall into this trap of believing that they were indispensable. Today, while she is still a shareholder in We Care Health Services, she is very much arms length from the business and she likes it that way.

However, once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur and she has gone on to start another venture – Blue Sky Personnel. This time she has taken all the lessons she learned from running We Care, and launched a business where she is very much in the back seat. She’s not even a back seat driver, critically directing traffic from behind the scenes.

No, she’s realized that she has a very competent team working for her, including at one point, her son, and she doesn’t need to be involved in the day-to-day running of the organization. On the personal front, she has moved to Collingwood, and has a new partner. Life is good.

When you read Bev’s bio, you assume that this is someone who has her life together in order to achieve all that she has done, including the awards she has won such as Leading Woman Entrepreneur of the World in 1998. So to hear her presentation on Wednesday was an eye-opener. I always encourage my speakers to be honest… and she sure was. It took courage for her to reveal the darker side of success.

It felt like a cautionary tale of how ambition and the drive to succeed can take you down a dangerous path to self-destruction. And for many of us, as Bev discovered the hard way, that price is too high.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a media interview, and in preparation had to answer some really tough questions on topics we don’t think about on a daily basis.

It was an interesting process and I was surprised at how deep I had to dig to come up with honest answers. I had answered all the questions but struggled with some, waffling on what was the best and most accurate answer to give.

I mean… if you were asked what talent or skill you wanted to have … how quickly could you come up with an answer? I had narrowed it down to three choices – public speaking, painting or driving (I am a nervous driver). As I reflected on this, it struck me that no where had I ever really acknowledged that I wanted to learn to paint, and if I really wanted to pursue this, there was nothing stopping me from taking lessons. Hey – who knows I could be the next Emily Carr!

What did I pick? In the end I went with the driving, because my fears limit me and I need to overcome this one.

Yet other questions, were easy to answer, such as describing the perfect day. Straight away I saw myself with my girlfriends, chatting, laughing, supporting each other in the way that women do.

All in all a thought-provoking process, that caused me to think hard and to ask my friends and family how accurate and truthful I was being in describing myself.

I leave you with one of the questions – what five words best describe you?

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Have you heard of Theatre Sheridan? – To me it is one of Oakville’s best kept secrets. Each year the Sheridan students put on six productions, the best of which is Catch a Rising Star, where students showcase their talents and their own work. And, I might add at the fraction of the cost of going to the theatre in Toronto or Hamilton.

With Catch a Rising Star, you are never sure what you will see or hear. The students pick their own theme and often use their musical talents to speak out on issues that are important to them. This year’s show was no exception.

As I sat in the cabaret style theatre, I wondered how many of the audience, who seemed to be mainly part of the grey hair brigade, were agreement with the views voiced by the young students? Or whether they felt uncomfortable with their brutal honesty.

Two performances truly stood out for me. A young woman with a powerful voice, and a powerful message sang her song Dear Mr President, in which she asked how he could sleep at night, how he could look people in the eye, while young men and women were killed and mothers never got to say goodbye. She sang it with passion and I found myself thinking – good for you for speaking up and giving words to what others think but do not have the courage to say.

The next song was Earth, and focused on global warming. Again a strong performance and the message was emphasized as the students wandered among the audience with the chorus “What about us?”

I find it reassuring that our young people do care about these issues and as always I’m in awe of their talent.

If you get a chance, go see the show, you will be glad you did. It is on until April 21st.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Realistic Expectations

We expect so much of ourselves and often we stand in our own way with our unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved and what we can do.

Years ago I taught a parenting course on children’s self-esteem and one of my favourite sessions was the one on realistic expectations. Children don’t question whether our expectations for them are accurate and so if we aim too high for them, they fail, and if we aim too low, they fail also. In parenting, it is therefore key to have some understanding and knowledge of normal child development and the ages and stages that children go through, because with these tools in our back pocket, we can be more realistic about what our children can accomplish and as a result they flourish and grow, not hindered by unrealistic expectations.

So perhaps we need to take a leaf out of our parenting books, and develop some realistic expectations for ourselves, because as adults, we are constantly raising the bar. Last night one of our panel members shared how trying to juggle two young children and a thriving business caught her off kilter. No wonder – that’s a lot for anyone to manage – yet she thought she could.

But as she found, when she stopped, caught her breath and focused on her priorities - a toddler and infant baby – her customers were willing to wait. When you set boundaries and limits, it protects everyone. If you are good at what you do, people will wait, they won’t just switch to someone else.

As I listened to her share this experience, it struck me that when you have the courage to reveal your vulnerability, your truth, you seem real. I know the women in the audience identified with the situation and appreciated her honesty.

The truth is always simple, but living it is not always easy.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Spring Cleaning

With Spring just around the corner, it was interesting to read an article this weekend about decluttering your life.

The author, a life coach, was encouraging readers to be brutal with their “stuff” and clean out fifty items from their lives. Books, for example, just counted as one so you could not cheat by recycling 50 books from your collection. No, you had to take a systematic approach and work your way through your home. She also recommended keeping a list, so you can look at it later and actually feel lighter.

As someone who has lived in the same house for 23 years, raised two daughters who have left and come back but never empty-handed, our basement looks like a battleground. We have a two-car garage that has not seen a car in years, as it too is home to the leftovers of lives lived elsewhere.

And if I am really honest, I am a bit of a packrat. I’ve had several careers and still have the paperwork to prove it. I’ve kept every file, study or report that I have ever written… just in case … you know, I may need it again.

But what was really interesting about this article, was the premise that when you get rid of the clutter in your life, it is much easier to move on to letting go of the negative thoughts that litter your head and hold you back. And you can count them in your fifty!

She suggests you make a list of the old convictions, fears, negative assumptions and depressing voices that weigh you down and commit to letting them go. Every morning for two weeks, recommit to eliminating them from your day-to-day thinking and congratulate yourself on the progress, however slight.

One woman was concerned when she contacted the author because she’d only got rid of one thing – her partner. But as the coach said, that was perhaps all she needed to take control of her life again.

Her advice – spring is here, and it’s time to lighten up. Don’t let yourself be shackled to irrelevant debris of the past, either physical or mental.

So, as I start to sort through old files and boxes of stuff, it becomes very freeing, and already I feel lighter because of the process.

What are you going to throw away? Start counting…