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It Pays To Be You

Lisa Cini, founder and CEO of Mosaic Design Studio.

Lisa Cini, founder and CEO of Mosaic Design Studio.

In the spirit of Global Entrepreneurship Week, we asked Strategic Coach clients to share their secrets to success. The final post in the series is written by Lisa Cini, founder and CEO of Mosaic Design Studio in Columbus, Ohio.

I used to spend a lot of time being frustrated that other people couldn’t do what I do. I’d hire someone and try to bring them on as a leader, but they just weren’t like me. “This isn’t brain surgery,” I’d say, “all you have to do is…”

It’s not that I thought I was smart or special. On the contrary: Entrepreneurs are often the opposite of what the media portray. We’re humble and self-deprecating about our capabilities, and we don’t think we’re particularly brilliant, because to us what we do just seems normal.

One of the secrets of success.

One of the secrets of success for me was realizing that everybody wasn’t like me.

Until I was able to recognize that I brought something special to the table, I wasn’t able to see anything special in others, either.

So that realization was a real light bulb moment for me.

Take balancing a checkbook. To me, that feels like punishment — so naturally I wouldn’t want to punish anyone else by making them do it. But then it dawned on me that there are folks who love those tasks and are great at them, so if I give them that work, I’m not punishing them, I’m liberating them.

How others count on us = what we love to do.

I asked some key people in my life what they count on me for, what I do that makes a difference for them, and the comments I got back were magical: It turned out that the things they considered most valuable happened to be the things I love to do.

So what are those things?

Well, one of them is that I can walk into any situation, meeting, or conversation and cut right down to the bones of what’s actually going on.

The other thing I do is take a factory approach to things—create systems that are repeatable, sustainable, and align with people’s passions and goals. In interior design and interior architecture, that might seem counter-intuitive, like, “Isn’t that restrictive?” But actually, having things systematized, not having to figure everything out from scratch each time, gives you a lot of room to be totally creative.

Neither of these two things is typically “feminine,” so I suppose I suppressed them for a long time. But now I get that I’m a problem-solver by nature. I was the six-year-old kid who gathered up the worms after a rainstorm because I knew I could sell them to our neighbor who fished.

And now I’m someone who stands in line and thinks, “Hmm, they could have a machine over there to take care of this.”

Why it’s important for us to know what makes us unique.

Being aware of my abilities makes it a lot easier for me to do what I do and surround myself with people who can support me with their gifts.

What I do might not be a typical role that women play. Women don’t always get encouraged to go out and lead and take a risk on our vision—to be “the man,” essentially. We might go about things differently from men, who can be a bit more cavalier about failing, like their business is just a car that’s broken down, whereas we might be more motherly and emotional about it.

We often try to whitewash that difference, but you don’t have to be the same to be equal. You can be different and be equal.

I think that being able to see your own gifts and the gifts of others is a real game-changer for entrepreneurs. Once I had that, I was free, and it completely changed my company. We’re growing year after year, and I know that teamwork will give us the leverage we need to get to the next level.