A year ago right about now, at 8 ½ months pregnant, I sat at an empty desk in my master bedroom trying to wrap my head around what the next year of my life would look like. I was getting ready to make a giant move to becoming a business owner. I had made up my mind that I was crazy enough to make the move while being moments away from having a baby, and if you know me at all you know that once I make up my mind that I am going to do something… I tend to take no prisoners and go full force in.
For many of you who do know me personally, November 5th 2014 I lost my Dad to brain cancer. On November 6th 2014 I opened Integrity Insurance Services.
However, what I don’t often share is the moment that happened on November 5th that changed the way I completely looked at becoming a business owner.
If any of you have ever been around someone with brain cancer you will know that it is not only one of the hardest things to watch, but it is also a time where you tend to admire the ones closest to you for fighting that fight with you. Watching my Mom give up so many parts of her life to care for my Dad was enough to make anyone believe in the power of True Love. I’m not talking about the love that you normally feel for a “partner”, or a puppy love, or even what most people get to experience. I am speaking in reference to the kind of love that if you are lucky gets to happen once in a lifetime. The kind that is all consuming, you would give up pieces of yourself for, and fight for. She and my Dad were two of those lucky ones.
On November 5th, I waddled into (keep in mind 8 ½ months pregnant and giant) the hospice facility that we were blessed enough to get to have my Dad in. I sat next to him, like I normally would have across from my Mom. She had been there all day but of course per usual… she looked well rested and always put together. Even though, I know she hadn’t really slept in months and was dieing herself on the inside. You would never see it. For whatever reason, she left us alone to go get water (although I’m sure deep down she knew I needed it). I had been “helpful”, loving, and supportive through the process sure… emotional about it I had tried to stay away from. I didn’t want to fall apart.
I got to watch their love story and how he loved me and my sister endlessly and the thought of losing that was terrifying to me.
In that moment I joked with him (I’m like Chandler from Friends and make jokes when I am a tad uncomfortable), talked about the kids, and then it dawned on me… I never got to tell him what I was about to do with my career. He had always encouraged me to be happy, love endlessly, and give back through action. So right there I began to tell him about Integrity Insurance Services. What I had already done, what I was prepared to do the next day, and how scared I was that I was making a terrible decision for a selfish reason. I even had a business plan sitting in my purse that I never showed him because even though he couldn’t talk to me… I knew he would much rather me have talked about the personal side of the business rather than how I was going to change the face of Insurance.
We talked for a solid 20-30 minutes or so (ok I talked but I felt like he did too). I told him how excited I was, that someday I was going to be able to take care of my mom, and that I would be ok. I felt somehow at peace that if he really thought I was making a dumb decision I would somehow know. So either he thinks that I am pretty brilliant or I should take the torrential downpours we have been having in Tucson lately as a sign to close up shop.
I left that day planning to head back that afternoon but about 2 hours after this conversation I got the call I was somehow prepared but never prepared for. He was gone.
Now, I am not telling anyone this to cause an emotional hell like I was going through, I am merely letting you into a side I don’t share typically to show you how and why this business suddenly became not just my career. It became a piece of my purpose, a reason to be more, and my legacy.
My struggle at this point, was what was I supposed to do now? Put everything on hold seemed like the right answer… because I wasn’t emotionally in a place to launch a new company the day after losing my Dad. Then the moment happened I needed… he wouldn’t have wanted that. See that day was his chance to know my mom, my sister, and myself would be ok. We would take care of each other and explore the next avenues of our lives. He would have wanted us to be fearless and drink lots of wine along the way (and not to worry this is something the three of us definitely can uphold our commitment on).
So that was that… after talking to my mom about it and following my heart… I launched.
As I mentioned above, I went head first in. I built my business around my brand as opposed to developing a business and hoping to God I could figure out my “branding” later. I found a passion in building something from the ground up. I finally felt comfortable having crazy ideas and not being afraid to stand behind them when I implement them. I became a person of action instead of the “dreamer” that is all too easy to relate to. Building an empire soon became the only thing I knew.
I went hard. I had had a baby and within 24 hours was working from the hospital. I was answering emails, calls, and referring business without anyone ever knowing I was in a hospital bed. Fast forward a few months later and in true “Erin business model marketing” fashion I released our Customer Appreciation Event information. I went hard. I took on a new venture of running and developing one of the largest networking groups in Tucson, and stood back and watched as my website launch changed the face of my business. I took my branding to the next level by getting ready to open new facets of what Integrity Insurance Services meant. I went hard.
I became everything I had ever wanted to be. DRIVEN.
Driven to be better and truly change the face of my industry. Taking care of people shouldn’t be hidden behind an oversized polo shirt on the 9th hole while drinking a beer (that’s right I said it… the typical Insurance Agent stereotype). It means having to be imperfect and take care of people like a regular human. You must be relatable. I needed to be real.
So in order to be real, I had to be real with myself. I sit here now and look at my reflection in this shiny Surface Pro 3 screen… I am different. I have been broken in ways that you would never believe in the last year of my life, but somehow I have found myself in this new way that only a fellow business owner can understand.
Integrity (as I always call it) has taken on a life of its own. Like my 10 month old walking… symbolically it is now starting to walk on its own too.
I am now suddenly realizing that I am the one needing to keep up. Keep up with what is coming next.
As I have mentioned in previous blog posts on my personal blog Integrity in Heels…Success to me is never measured by the amount of money you make, what kind of car you drive (although if anyone would like to donate a new Matte Black Land Rover to the cause I would gladly accept), it is as I have said before in my personal blog… It is the way you handle life’s BS being thrown at you. Truth be told there were times this past year, where I failed. I went hard in my business and came out somehow softer.
So now, 50 weeks later I am ready to business plan for the next phase of Integrity. Let me be clear… going easy isn’t in the plan. I will continue to go hard, I will continue to push the limits, and I will continue to adapt. In fact quite the contrary… as of November 6th 2015 Integrity Insurance Services is launching a new division that will allow us to grow and expand into markets we didn’t even think possible. The goal of this is to allow our services to accommodate potential clients that have up until now been unexplored.
See going easy to a business owner should never be a part of the plan. Taking the time to smell your “roses” whatever those might be to you… should be.
My Dad showed me in life that you are not guaranteed tomorrow… so you can go live today and leave no regrets… or you can live life wishing you should have push harder to find and accomplish the things most important to you.
Integrity Insurance Services might be my business…. But what I have built and shown my kids… that is my legacy.
I thank you for everything you have brought to my business in the last year and cannot wait to celebrate the announcement of our new division on November 6th 2015.