Contributed by Cindy Norcott, EO Durban, a motivational speaker, author, entrepreneur, business coach and philanthropist. She is the CEO of Pro Talent and Pro Appointment, as well as the founder and chair of The Robin Hood Foundation. In observance of International Women’s Day week, we’re sharing Cindy’s journey. She’s a woman entrepreneur whose second book, How Does She Do It? explores practical wisdom and a humorous take on the lessons learned from balancing business, life and family across her 28-year entrepreneurial journey.
How did you find peace with “the messy and very imperfect” aspects of entrepreneurial life?
I am grateful that I am not a perfectionist. Because I wear many hats, I soon learned that the quickest way to contentment is to lower my standards and not sweat the small stuff. I never aim for perfection. Rather, I focus on “GETMO” — good enough to move on.
I often joke that I am a terrible mother and that my children thrive on neglect. Running many businesses, projects and organizations simultaneously, I empowered my young daughters to be independent from a very young age. They made their own lunches from the time they started school. That horrifies most people, but it’s the way it was in our home. I cook badly, and that is ok. We have simple meals. I don’t have time to be a helicopter parent.
As an entrepreneur, there are often very busy and demanding seasons where work is the main focus, and other elements of my life have had to take a back seat. As a motivational speaker, the world always sees the end product — me on a stage, composed, serene and professional. What they don’t see is me at midnight, in pajamas with my hair tied up and glasses on, reading, writing and preparing speeches. I also host big, glamorous and fun events. But again, very few people see us setting up, packing goodie bags and clearing up afterward. For every success that any entrepreneur has that looks easy and shiny, there is a lot of hard work, mess and many unglamorous elements behind the scenes.
What 3 tips or tricks help you make it look easy (even though it’s not)?
- Work with lists. It has been said, “One life – one list.” I plan a to-do list for each week in advance. On it, I note what to delegate and to whom. I keep a separate follow-up list for anyone who has not reverted to me or who might have dropped the ball. I also keep a bucket list that I review monthly to make sure that I am not only focusing on the here and now but on life’s fundamental goals as well.
- Don’t multi-task. Many women pride themselves on doing two or more things at once. I realized long ago that I am not good at multi-tasking, so I focus on one thing at once. I try to live by the quote, “Wherever you are, be there.” I am very intentional about where I put my focus — it is a bit of a superpower for me. I ask myself, “Will doing this task push the lever the most?” and “Is this the very best use of my time right now?” I love the saying, “You can’t ride two horses with only one backside.” I have read that multi-tasking makes you 10 percent less effective, so I don’t subscribe to it.
- Limit social media. The main part of my role is marketing, sales and public relations. I have realized that social media can rob you of your time, take you down rabbit holes and toxify your soul. When I do my social media posting, I set a timer and work like a sniper — focusing on what has to be done, being as effective as possible, and then getting off of those sites as soon as possible.
What do you do after working hours?
I spend a lot of time investing in my personal development. I focus on intentional goal setting, gratitude journaling and exercise in the mornings. At night and weekends, instead of watching Netflix or sitting on social media, I invest quite a lot of time reading a wide variety of topics, such as leadership, personal development, positive psychology, Stoicism and autobiographies. I watch Ted Talks and inspirational videos, and I listen to podcasts. Every Sunday afternoon I spend 60 to 90 minutes planning my life for the week ahead. In that way, I start the week prepared and focused with a very clear order of my priorities.
What’s one tough lesson you’ve endured? What did you learn?
When I started my business, I had absolutely no experience in managing people. I never played team sports in school, and I never held leadership positions. I made so many mistakes that I shudder thinking about them. I didn’t know how to deal with conflict. I was unassertive, and I vacillated between being too hard and too soft. I was often task-orientated and distant. I was overly demanding on myself and others.
Owning a recruitment company that relies entirely on the people you employ made me realize that I needed to become exceptionally good at leading, managing and motivating people. I gained a mentor who helped me a lot, and then I became fascinated by leadership books and immersed myself in the various theories of motivation. I can now say that I am a lot better at leading people, having learned the hard way how to listen more, trust my people, be empathetic, and learn how to have more fun at work.
How has EO enhanced your entrepreneurial journey?
I have learned so much from EO in the past six years! I have sat at the feet of greatness and learned from remarkable, uber-successful people. I’ve learned that the more successful a person is, they are often the most humble. I’ve learned to think bigger. Now, whenever I plan anything, I always say, “Add another zero!” I’ve learned to trust myself more and to dream bigger.
I’ve also learned not to be so much of a pleaser and to become comfortable saying no to others in the pursuit of my important goals. I am less controlling and delegate more. I have learned that you don’t always have to mind the store. As a result of being an EO member, I have a much better work-life balance and a richer business — but most importantly, I have a richer life!
What’s next for you?
In 2022, I am doing loads of national and some international motivational talks. I trust that my book, How does she do it?, will become a bestseller, and I already have some ideas for my third book. Simultaneously, I have big travel goals after two years of minimal travel.
One of the positive impacts of Covid has been that geographical boundaries are no longer an issue, so my recruitment agency, Pro Talent, is busier than ever with national and international placements. We have been in business for 28 years, and I believe that we will have our best year ever!