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“Reflect and research.” With Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated & Donna Miller

I believe confidence is rooted in competence, and that means there is no “faking it” — people can see right through that. I show up authentically. I come to each situation armed with as much information and perspective as I can. That authenticity and vulnerability gives other people permission to do the same — it […]

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I believe confidence is rooted in competence, and that means there is no “faking it” — people can see right through that. I show up authentically. I come to each situation armed with as much information and perspective as I can. That authenticity and vulnerability gives other people permission to do the same — it immediately releases pressure. When possible, I frame the conversation as a starting point giving others time to reflect and research.


As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewingDonna Miller.

Donna & her team have helped thousands of companies to start and grow, producing countless jobs and massive revenue. C3Workplace (www.c3workplace.com) provides co-working space (they started before co-working was a “thing”), virtual assistants, bookkeeping, and business growth consulting.

Donna is self-taught and self-made — think Hamilton: Scrappy, Young (at heart), and Hungry. She’s built an impeccable reputation on the belief that companies can be a force for good while funding dreams. She is a community leader, an inspirational speaker, and a woman of faith.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Igrew up in a middle-class family of Irish-Italian heritage, 5 children, 1 dog, and a neighborhood full of families like mine. It was magical. Right up until it wasn’t. My parents divorced when I was in high school, money got tight (not necessarily in that order) and I struggled socially. College wasn’t on the table for me and so I went to work as a secretary. I was a fish to water and it was my foot in the door. I think I was born an entrepreneur and it just took me a while to become one.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.

Necessity. I’ve always been self-motivated. My first job was for a startup and I loved creating something from nothing and as it turns out I am very good at it. Prior to starting my own business, I worked for another coworking facility for 7 years with a hand-shake deal (whoops, lesson learned — get it in writing) that he would sell me the business. He wouldn’t sell it to me despite a higher than market value offer. And so I did what he later referred to as despicable: I wrote a business plan, I raised funds and I opened 1.2 miles from where he used to be located. I have never looked back and failure simply was not an option.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Agree, no one achieves success in isolation. First, Jesus. Period. Everything I am and have is a gift from above. Beyond that, there is a very long list of people who shaped and encouraged me. My high school steno teacher (Mrs. Mayer) who taught me the basic skills that helped me to get my foot in the door and taught me about taking pride in the simplest task. My first boss (Lindsay) who consistently pushed me outside my comfort zone which is where ALL growth comes from (for me). A client (Steven) who encouraged me to go out on my own and also told me I didn’t need to raise more money, but rather I needed to cut expenses (ouch and 100% true). My former business partner (Irene), my initial investors (Cheryl/Mary/Clara). But, with me, through everything has been my best friend and sister, Cathy — cheering me on, encouraging me to think bigger, and eventually becoming a business partner too.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Perfectionism is 1000% overrated! When I opened my business, it was me, my business partner, and one part-timer. Yet, I was doing everything. No one could do it as fast as me or as well as me. No one’s ideas were as creative as mine. No one’s solutions were as effective as mine. And eventually, they just let me do it all.

We did grow and we did hire more staff. However, no one could live up to my standards and we had a revolving door. In fact, there was a betting pool in the office as to how long a new hire would last (or not last). My personal “worst” was a gal who didn’t come back after her lunch break. She did, however, follow up for her 3-hour paycheck!

I have since become a “recovered” micro-manager. I had to change or throw in the towel. I hired consultants and coaches to help me take the long, and often painful journey, from a micro-manager to a leader that empowers others. Along the way, we had to figure out what we stood for and build our culture around that. I now lead an organization where everyone loves to come to work and they are all co-creators of our strategy. We are a company that is a force for good — internally and publicly. We model work-life balance and we teach our clients how to do the same — grow businesses that can run without them involved in the day-to-day.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

That’s easy:

1.) You must have a written business plan — it is your roadmap, don’t wing it.

Side note: as important as passion is, it will not pay the bills until you figure out how to monetize it. You do that in your business plan financials before you start!

2.) Charge as if you were hiring someone to do the work from day one (profit first — see # 1)

3.) Pay yourself first, otherwise, it’s an expensive hobby.

4.) Seek to raise up leaders — it is a solid business model for scaling and it makes the world a better place

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Simon Sinek’s Start with Why. I watched his TED Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” and in 18 minutes it changed the trajectory of my company and my life (and that’s no exaggeration). I realized that I had unintentionally opened a values-driven company and after watching that video and reading the book, I got very strategic about my WHY. My values are faith, impact, and community — that’s my WHY and ultimately, it’s my legacy (impact). As soon as I got clear on my values and started to live them out loud, those are the people, clients, friends, and staff who showed up in my life. It even gave me the courage to fire clients — and if you haven’t fired a client that wasn’t aligned with your values… it’s insanely empowering.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

I came across this about 15 years ago. It helped me to overcome my insecurities (based on my lack of a college education) and it began a churning in me that was unstoppable. It began my process of thinking with the end in mind … the end being legacy. It began my transformation into a true servant leader.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Almost every project we work on is exciting. We recently helped several clients shift from face to face meetings to Zoom meetings … we walked them through that process helping them to keep their organizations viable. The C3 stands for connect, collaborate, community, and among my favorite projects are those where we are collaborating. We held a Small Business Week Celebration that was a collaborative effort that brought 200 business owners together for a dynamic morning of networking, inspiration, and education.

But, my most favorite projects are the ones that I didn’t even know had an impact until I get a thank you card 5 years later telling me the far-reaching impact we had by helping someone with a relatively small administrative task. That is exciting to me.

FUN FACT — I wrote the above paragraph at about 10 am, later that day I got this text from a gal I coached about 7 years ago:

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?

First off, self-care — sleep, exercise (more later), and hydration. You simply cannot skip this and perform well under the best of circumstances never mind the high-pressure moments.

I wake early every day, anytime between 4:30 and 5:30 to give myself an hour of quiet time. I pray, I read the Bible, I journal, I practice gratitude and mindfulness. I remember my mom getting up really early and I thought it was because with 5 children it was the ONLY time she’d have to herself. Although that probably was true, I now understand the value of starting your day in quiet solitude. The quiet helps me to hear the voice within me. Glennon Doyle calls it The Knowing, I call it God.

Exercise — I work out hard — it burns calories and stress. My favs: running & kickboxing. I can hit a bag, focus on the thing (or person) I want to whoop on and poof … stress, anger, and all that negativity just melt (sweats) away.

Learn to let stuff go … as leaders, we need to focus on the truly important things and let the rest go.

Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Research, research, research

Practice, practice, practice

I believe confidence is rooted in competence, and that means there is no “faking it” — people can see right through that. I show up authentically. I come to each situation armed with as much information and perspective as I can. That authenticity and vulnerability gives other people permission to do the same — it immediately releases pressure. When possible, I frame the conversation as a starting point giving others time to reflect and research.

But, above all — I remind myself that I have survived 100% of my most difficult moments and I am equipped with a wealth of experience. I have “figured it out” countless times before. So can you.

Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.

I use positive affirmations –

I close big deals every day

I own the room when I walk on stage

I have ridiculous amounts of stamina and energy

I write them on my bathroom mirror with dry-erase markers and over time, they have become my reality vs my vision. Boom! It totally works for me!

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

Yes, put your phone in another room, turn your email off. Yes, DISCONNECT and UNPLUG.

I print my calendar for the day (I use time blocking) and then I exit Outlook except to check email twice a day. I follow my time blocking on my calendar to stay on point/task.

Also, knowing that my genius shows up in spades from 7–11 am, that’s when I block time for creative and strategic work.

We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle

‘nuf said ?

What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

In the simple, but iconic words of Nike — “Just Do It”

I am not motivated by words, I am motivated by action. I don’t LOVE exercising, but I LOVE how it makes me feel — I have to do it to feel it.

Of course, this can be challenging so consider an accountability partner for specific tasks or areas where you are trying to develop new habits.

On the flipside — when I think about changing bad habits (and I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life), I find staying in the day very helpful. Just for today, I won’t do XYZ (think Game of Thrones: Not Today)

As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

Great and important question. Finding your flow is a compilation of a number of points. It starts with getting clear on your WHY and your values. It is likely that your Flow tasks are aligned with your why and your values. Then, prioritize and schedule a time for those tasks. Schedule the block of time in alignment with your best time of day. Then unplug and get to it!

And, give yourself grace around what “productivity” is … sometimes the struggle is the path to the breakthrough and although the struggle doesn’t feel productive it is a necessary part of the process.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I believe companies can be a force for good. I believe that profit drives possibility. I want to teach solopreneurs and small business owners to build organizations that a) run without them and b) produce margin. Margin in time so that they can enjoy work-life integration and Margin in dollars because that will allow them to help others … I believe we must model this for our children and in doing so we can change the world for the better. Lucky me, I’m living this out loud!

We are very blessed that 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 just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would love to have a meal with Rachel Hollis — we are both high school educated, Christian, self-made people who have built something from nothing. We also both just ended long term marriages. I would just love to soak up her energy and wisdom first hand. I’d be happy to meet her in Hawaii for that!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My Blog

Instagram

FaceBook

You Tube

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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