TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BUSINESS. WHAT ARE YOU DOING EXACTLY?
I’ve operated my business for more than two decades, and we are a transformational training company. We started as Sylvia Wilkins & Associates and later became Aiming High Inc after I married the man whose name both the company and I now proudly bear.
Essentially, what we do is serve people. And the mechanism that we use for doing that is transformational training. Our premise is that by retraining your mind, you can accomplish what hasn’t been accomplished yet. In other words, mindset matters. So we help people identify the beliefs that hold them back as well as those that motivate them or propel them forward. Then we show them how to design a belief system that gets them from where they are to where they want to go… transformational training, so to speak.
Aiming High conducts training in Atlanta and the San Francisco Bay Area that are open to the general public. In addition, we conduct corporate or organizational training and keynotes all across the country. Plus we host the annual I AM WOMAN Conference in Atlanta.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR BUSINESS IDEA?
The great thing about ideas — or at least my ideas — is that I don’t have to come up with them because they just seem to come to me. I live my life from the perspective of discovery… self-discovery, relationship discovery, community or environmental discovery and on and on. That allows me to be open to new things… new ideas… new experiences. So after completing a transformational-style training in the early 90’s, I found myself enthralled by the process itself and I immersed myself in it to learn as much as I could. Then one day I decided that it was time for me to open my own firm.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE THIS, AND IS THIS YOUR FIRST BUSINESS?
Yes. This is my first business. Prior to starting my company, I worked in a succession sales or sales management positions at major corporations. It was a promising career. I was productive and well-liked like by my clients and my managers. The perks were great, too: a company car, a liberal expense account, comprehensive medical coverage, a generous vacation plan, etcetera etcetera. However, I found it unfulfilling. It didn’t “speak” to me. And sometimes I even felt as if the career had me versus me having a career. It simply goes to show that just because you’re really good at something, that isn’t necessarily the “right” path for you.
WHAT SPECIFIC ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN WHO WOULD LIKE TO BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR?
It’s probably the same advice that I would give to a young man who would like to become an entrepreneur. While I think that women and men may bring differing perspectives to entrepreneurship, I’m not convinced that there’s any major difference between them in terms of what they should do to jump into or swim in the entrepreneurial pool. So here’s some of what I would recommend:
Develop a healthy relationship with failure. You’re going to miss the mark sometimes. Or you might hit the mark, and find out that you were aiming at the wrong target. And you’re bound to encounter impediments, things that will stop you dead in your tracks. The key is to not stay stopped. Failure is the inevitable part of the success that educates us, builds character, and deepens the spirit. I think it was George Burns, the American comedian, actor, singer, and writer, who said: “I honestly think it is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate.”
Value feedback. Most of us divide feedback into good feedback and bad feedback; or positive feedback and negative feedback. But I’m going to assert that feedback is neither good nor bad. I’m going to assert that it’s just information that you can use to further your business or not. So value it. And I should add that feedback comes in many forms, not just in words but in deeds, too.
Seek the support and guidance of those who have done it before. Get a mentor who has created the kind of business that you want. Your mentor doesn’t necessarily have to in the same industry that you’re in. Rather, your mentor should exhibit the kind of values and results that you want for your business. Build a circle of like-minded people — some might call it a network — who are empowering to be with, to listen to, and to learn from. See them as collaborators in the vision that you have for your company.
There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that women make the world a better place. So I would say make the world a better place through your business.
Be courageous. Be powerful. And let go of average in favour of awesome.
MY GREATEST OBSTACLE AND HOW I DEALT WITH IT:
For the most part, I think that one of the greatest obstacles that I or anyone else has to deal with is the mind, the internal conversation that we have with ourselves about ourselves. Sometimes the conversation exists in our consciousness and sometimes it exists in our subconsciousness. In my case, it was the belief that I wasn’t sufficiently serious to be a business owner. Through working with my mentor and others, I started my company even though I had that belief. And it wasn’t long before I had plenty of evidence to show that you can be a lighthearted, fun, easygoing person AND a businesswoman.
Let me add that I think that the mind is probably one of the greatest obstacles whether you’re just starting out or looking to grow your business or develop it in other ways, too. Many years ago, I was under an extremely tight deadline with several elements of a project still unfinished. I shared with my mentor that the pressure was overwhelming. “Pressure?” she asked, “What pressure? It’s only pressure because you say it’s pressure. Manage your mind, my dear.” I did as she instructed and delivered the project on time, and in excellence. The client was thrilled, and the memory of my mentor’s coaching still makes me smile after all these years.
MY PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT:
I’m proudest of the reputation that I have created for myself and my company. It’s the reason why individuals and organizations seek out Aiming High. Without a stellar reputation, I might not be an entrepreneur. Or I definitely wouldn’t be one who enjoys the kind of success that currently graces my business and my life.
HOW I BLEND LIFE AND WORK TO CREATE THE LIFE I WANT:
While I think it is imperative to distinguish between work hours and non-work hours, I don’t feel that there is an inherent separation between life itself and work. So there’s no need for me to look for ways to blend them. In creating the life you want, the ratio of life’s activities – work, play, worship, etcetera – should be fluid, not fixed.
I AM INSPIRED BY:
I’m inspired by the people I love who love me. I’m also inspired by nature. I love the ocean, and the mountains, and forests and the desert, any place where the wonder of God’s creation is right there in front of me for me to experience with all of the senses.
WHY I CHOSE THIS CAREER:
Becoming a trainer and coach spoke to me. It beckoned me. My friends say that when we were in college, I was the one who was always trying to engage them in some new unexplored adventure. And they say that I was the one who was always giving advice, whether they asked for it or not. I love people. And I want everyone to lead a happy healthy fulfilling life. Being a trainer, coach, speaker and author are how I’m able to bring that about.