February 15, 2023
Diana Ayoub


As a director of a young company, I like to imagine myself as captain of a ship, standing at the steering wheel, looking out towards the horizon, wind billowing in my hair, fully in control of our journey. In truth, I’m holding on to the railing, trying my best to keep my footing, occasionally throwing up over the edge while I navigate the ebb and flow of the ocean beneath me. The good thing is, most business owners I know tell me this is a normal part of the first few years of operation, so I don’t feel terrible about the blunders we make! 

At the end of last year, we finally hit a stage where work was flowing in regularly. Before we got a chance to celebrate this milestone, we found ourselves caught up in the mad rush towards the finish line. In the span of two months, we had two books designed, 3 strategic visualisations, over 25 live graphic recording pieces and an online course created! Not to mention the day-to-day admin of running a business, preparing proposals and kicking off several projects for the new year. Times like these can get overwhelming, but they are also invigorating. 

On the job, creating a quarterly project map mural at the Australian Payments Plus office in Sydney

As we packed up our gear at the last event of 2022, Alan and I exchanged a look of relief, but we both had big smiles on our faces… We made it! I could almost hear the LEVEL COMPLETE sound effect. We had indeed levelled up big time! 

Reflecting back, the experience taught me some valuable lessons that I walked into the new year with:

  1. Hard no vs a no…not right now.

The biggest thing I learned in this period of demand was how to say “no”. It’s actually harder than it sounds, especially when we remember all too clearly the sound of crickets earlier in the year. Your ability to say a well thought-out “no” can help you set healthy boundaries, as well as build self-confidence. Ironically, when used in the right way, saying “no” to work now can lead to more work later.

If you’re booked wall to wall, but someone wants to work with you, your “no” needs to be transformed into a “no, not right now.” Know who you’re speaking with, and show interest by asking about the event or project. Showing excitement, rather than shutting down the conversation, leaves a positive impression. Close with “I look forward to working with you next time.” And don’t forget to follow up again, once you have availability, even if it’s just to check in on how their project went. 

Keeping and building relationships is one of the most valuable things you can do to ensure consistency and loyalty. 

  1. Be part of a network 

At the beginning of 2022, we joined a business networking community, Humans United by Business (HUBB) and it was such a rewarding experience. What HUBB has done exceptionally well is create a space where seasoned and new business leaders come together to share their journey with each other. We met other young enthusiastic founders on a similar journey, facing similar challenges. We got to know and learn from people who had already weathered these storms and had great tips for us. Best of all, we felt part of a community. 

The conversations we had throughout the year at HUBB and other networking events were inspiring and invigorating, but I didn’t expect anything more than that. We still had to knot out our own specific business challenges. But to my delight, in the midst of the most high-pressure moments, those seemingly casual conversations became lighthouses guiding me back towards the shore. 

I’ve learned that not every conversation has to serve a purpose or solve all the problems of the world. Sometimes, just sharing the journey with others is enough. 

  1. Work with people you genuinely like and enjoy working with

Every once in a while, you meet a client who becomes much more than that. When you set boundaries, you will find the people who share some of the same values, vision or passion as you. This is how partnerships are forged. When sparks fly, collaboration is at its best. The most exciting projects are the ones where everyone involved is pushing, challenging, bouncing off each other– all while having fun! It’s how Pixar came into existence and The Beatles took over the world. 

So find your tribe and don’t let it go.


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Cover image illustration created by Sh8peshifters for The Change Hub - Navigating the Chaos of Change