“Don’t Let Negative People Or Experiences Stop You” With Tara Bradford of Bradford Partners

“I think it’s important to look to the future and understand what the worst thing that could happen might be and how you would overcome it…

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“I think it’s important to look to the future and understand what the worst thing that could happen might be and how you would overcome it. I also think there are times where failure is there to tell us we are going the wrong way. There are also times where people will mirror back our deepest insecurities to us and ask, “What if it doesn’t work out?” When those things happen it is really important to ask yourself, “What if it does work out?” It is equally important for you to look inward and wonder how you are showing up in those situation where people think you need advice or you aren’t totally confident. When you shift that negativity, you’ll notice the experiences and the people around you change as well.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Tara Bradford. Tara is a Social Scientist and Transitions Consultant at Bradford Partners. She helps translate emotions to English for executive teams during liquidity events and high stakes negotiations so they can thrive during business transitions. She amplifies her clients’ communication strategy and optimizes their decision making capacity by incorporating her background in cognitive neuroscience, nursing, and neurolinguistics. She also sits on the Executive Board of a division of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association that promotes best practices in stroke care across the greater NY metro area and is passionate about initiatives that support diversity & inclusion. Her work has been featured in Forbes, HuffPost, ThriveGlobal, Talk Radio NYC, TEDx Lincoln Square, and Glamour Magazine.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I was a Critical Care Nurse for 8 years and spent most of my time with people who had been in devastating accidents. During that time I learned that accidents can happen to anyone from the homeless person sitting on the side of the street to the managing director of an investment bank; and in times of crisis our regrets shine a light on what is truly important to us. Each of them had a story about a time in their lives when they were working towards something that they defined as success, which was also a time when they had ignored what was most important to them. I decided I wanted to meet them when they are thriving so I can help them see what is really important to them at a time when they are in a better position to make a change so they don’t have to bounce back from a tragedy before they realize what they truly want out of life.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company

I think the most interesting part about my entrepreneurial journey up to this point happened when I was trying to come up with my idea for my company. I moved a lot when I was a growing up and had the opportunity to live in other countries and experience different cultures during my childhood. It wasn’t until I moved back to the United States that I felt isolated for being different from everyone else. In the end, it was this experience that empowered me to put myself in situations where I was different so I could make a difference. I wanted to explore other industries besides healthcare when I was starting a company so I could be sure that whatever I committed to was something that I could really see myself doing for a long time. I began putting myself in situations where I didn’t belong on purpose. I volunteered everywhere from a trade show where I was able to meet buyers, sellers, and designers in the fashion industry to teaching high school students about personal finance where I was surrounded by investment bankers. One of the first questions people ask you when they meet you for the first time is, “What do you do?” When I told them I was a nurse, I immediately became the most interesting person in the room because I was different from everyone else and they were confused about why I was there. In doing this I gained access to people who I wouldn’t have normally crossed paths with and I made some really great friends who are also mentors to this day.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I like to look at my company through the lens that other people see it to understand what makes it stand out to them. In a recent conversation with a venture capitalist, he chuckled and said, “You’re a CEO nurse. I think every CEO needs that.” Typically when people think of a CEO they might think, “that person is the hardest working person I know” or they may say, “I wouldn’t even know where to begin offering to help that person because he or she seems like everything is always under control.” I look at a CEO and think, “I bet you would really like to meet someone who makes you feel understood and knows how to help you when you don’t know how to ask for help.” Nurses are trusted advisors and advocates, which is the background I bring into my consulting work. Oftentimes during these liquidity events I am the only person that the CEO talks to who does not have a vested interest in the transaction so I can truly be an unbiased third party and sounding board for them.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

This is my favorite question because without the people who have helped me along the way I would not be where I am today. I have so many stories of people who I am grateful for.

My very first business mentor was running a multimillion dollar company when we met and there are 3 distinct words he said to me that changed the way I saw myself forever. He said, “People like us.” I had put him and his success up on a pedestal that really intimidated me. Hearing those three words was the first time in my life I had felt a leader elevate me to his level, and it happened in an instant. When I asked him what he meant by that statement he replied, “visionary entrepreneurs.” That was the moment I started believing that running a company was possible for me.

The second person is a business owner who I ran into when I was having dinner at a bar in New York City. I like to share this story whenever I can because we didn’t exchange names or give any identifying information, so if he is reading this I would like to thank him. He had just given a keynote speech in the city and I was two weeks away from moving to go to graduate school. He listened to my story and he gave me some of the best advice. He said, “Sometimes doing what comes easy for your and taking the easy way out are not the same thing.” That was the moment when my business idea became clear, I decided to stay in New York City (and not go back to school), and 60 days later I started my company. He helped me see that the things I am naturally good at are also things that other people would pay to learn how to be better at.

The third person I am grateful for is an investor I met this year. I asked him to tell me about the best investment he ever made in his career. He told me, “The best investment anyone can make is in women.” Then he asked me what I needed help with. It was then that I realized what I am really doing to help people, I am asking them if they need help even when they look like they have everything figured out. I can’t say it was the first time anyone had offered to help me, but it was the first time I didn’t respond with the words, “I’m fine.” By being clear about what I needed help with I received some of the most valuable advice to take my business to the next level.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Aside from donating to charities, attending charitable events, and speaking at summits for a cause; I believe we can bring goodness to the world every day. Whether it is bringing a smile to someone’s face, helping someone find their way when they are lost, or saying words like, “people like us” the way my first mentor did for me, making a difference starts with believing you have the power do so. Change happens when you exercise that power through little things you do every day. When you do those things that help other people, then you will feel more successful because you are doing something that is meaningful.

When I first moved to New York City a lot of people told me they were worried about me because the city is expensive and dirty, and people are mean. I quickly learned after moving here that New Yorkers are some of the nicest people in the world. I see people being kind to each other every day. People in the subway will help a woman carry her stroller up the stairs. If someone’s grocery bags break in the middle of the crosswalk then five people standing nearby will help that person pick everything up out of the street. When I go for a run and there’s a parking attendant standing outside of a parking garage he might say, “Keep going, you’ve got this!”

I thought I was a pretty generous person before I came to New York City, but being here has made me up my game. When people are giving to each other like that, you feel like paying it forward. A few weeks ago I found a dollar on the street. So I stopped at one of the street vendor carts on the sidewalk, bought bananas, and gave them to homeless people who I saw on my walk home. Being in this environment helps me be more aware of ways I can give back on a daily basis to help spread kindness and hopefully inspire others to pay it forward as well.

Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

I would highly recommend “The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks to anyone who recognizes that the only thing holding them back from success is themselves and they are wondering where that comes from and how to overcome it.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. You need to know what stops you. When you work for yourself and other people are depending on you, sometimes you are going to have to find a way to keep going even when you don’t want to. It’s important to think about the things that might stop you (illness, loss of a loved one, failure, etc.) before they happen and create a plan for how you are going to handle it, who you have in your network as a support system, and how much time you are going to give yourself to deal with it before you have to come back to work.
  2. Everyone can teach you something. When you treat every person like they are the center of the Universe and what they are saying is the most important thing you have heard all day, you might surprise yourself and learn something new. I was sitting at dinner recently and a young boy and his mother were sitting at the table next to me. The boy was probably 7 years old and he told me he had just left an audition for a TV show. I asked him how he thought the audition went. He told me what he did really well and what he could have done better. Then he said something really great, “If I don’t get a call back for this one then I will find something else.” I was so impressed with his willingness to accept that he would not get a call back to every audition at the age of 7.
  3. It can be a lonely journey. There are going to be people who don’t understand what you are doing or why you are doing it and that is okay. Surround yourself with the people who support you and remember that what you are doing is bigger than you.
  4. Don’t let negative people or experiences stop you. I think it’s important to look to the future and understand what the worst thing that could happen might be and how you would overcome it. I also think there are times where failure is there to tell us we are going the wrong way. There are also times where people will mirror back our deepest insecurities to us and ask, “What if it doesn’t work out?” When those things happen it is really important to ask yourself, “What if it does work out?” It is equally important for you to look inward and wonder how you are showing up in those situation where people think you need advice or you aren’t totally confident. When you shift that negativity, you’ll notice the experiences and the people around you change as well.
  5. Stay true to yourself. You are going to be pulled in a lot of directions and while it is really important to know what problem you are solving for your clients or customers; be careful not to stray too far into problem solving mode. I am so grateful my business was created out of being asked to serve those around me. In the first two years of business I pivoted a few times. There was one pivot that was a little too far out of bounds for me and I had to realize that I was letting my problem solving turn me into a generalist who could solve any problem. Just because you can solve every problem doesn’t mean you should be. Now, when someone asks me to solve a problem that isn’t my expertise, I refer them to the right people who can help them instead of going down the rabbit hole of trying to have all of the answers myself.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I feel like I am exactly where I need to be and that you reached out to me for this interview for a reason. The person who needs to read this will read it, and hopefully reach out.

I don’t have one person in mind, but I am currently meeting with VC and Private Equity Firms to assist them with the executive teams within their portfolio companies and I would be honored to speak at one of their annual conventions about stress as it relates to exit strategy and ways to optimize decision making for high stakes negotiations. (this is off the record — right? 🙂

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, Authority Magazine, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.

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