ISGC Feature: Capturing the Energy of Anese Cavanaugh

CavanaughHere is a brief ecerpt from an interview of Anese Cavanaugh by Glenn Burr for the Inc. Small Giants Community (ISGC), one that is made up of small business leaders all over the world who define success by more than just their financial bottom lines, but also by their contributions to their communities, a dedication to great customer service and the creation and preservation of workplaces cultures of excellence. In his book Small Giants: Companies That Choose to be Great Instead of Big, (Portfolio/Penguin 2006) Bo Burlingham observed a set of six common characteristics in the unique and inspiring companies he was examining. He dubbed the combination of these characteristics to be “business mojo.” The Inc. Small Giants Community serves to make these characteristics more common in how small business owners run their businesses.

To read the complete interview, learn more about ISGC, obtain membership information, and sign up for email alerts, please click here.

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When it comes to understanding the composition of Small Giants and aspiring Small Giants alike, nothing beats exploring the experiences, passions and values from the perspectives of the leadership behind these companies. In our new feature series, we sit down with members of the Inc. Small Giants Community and ask them to reveal what makes them tick and what makes their companies the ones to admire in the entrepreneurial community. In our first interview, Inc. Small Giants Community First Officer of Mojo Glenn Burr tried to capture some of the seemingly boundless energy that Anese Cavanaugh channels into every moment of her day.

Burr: Give us a brief overview of your journey as a business owner.

Cavanaugh: I started my business in 2002 after I had my first baby. I’d worked in the “corporate world” and with athletes for years and once I had Jake had decided to “never work again”. That lasted about a year. Something in me had changed – loved that little man AND I wanted to do work that I love, that would contribute in a big way, and that would be unlimited in what I could create… I wanted to be able to make a dent on the world he’d grow up in, and I know that business was a good way to do it… I also wanted major major major freedom to honor my values around family, contribution, impact, and self-care. Sitting at the gym waiting for Jake to wake up from a nap so I could get my workout in, I realized I wanted to get back into working with people again, but I wanted to do it by design. In that parking lot it dawned on me that I could intentionally craft a business of my choice and run with it.

So I did… I took all the things I’d done in my career – the things that had the most meaning and heart for me and that I was really good at – and created a j-o-b out of it. There were 12 core job responsibilities. Then I asked myself – what if this was actually a business and could reach more people and provide more jobs? And then I started creating. Within 3 months of that conversation I had launched. I had no idea what I was doing, only that I wanted to create impact, be happy, and be a great mom. I also knew that I wanted to build something meaningful. That was in 2002, I’ve since had another child, my kids are now 7 and 12 and the business has grown every year with them. I started pretty part time – up until 2007 it was a part time business – my values around being a good mom and available while getting them a strong foundation, trumped my values around challenge and growing an impactful business. In 2007 I jumped in with both feet and the business has grown nicely every year since. In 2007 I also started to create my own methodology around self-care, leadership and impact – that was a pivotal point in the business because it freed me up to be even more creative in how I worked with people. Now this methodology has been integrated into various organizations via speaking, program participation, and licensing. I just learned a couple of weeks ago that one of the non profits I work with is going to be using one of my leadership programs as their foundation and core curriculum for their internal Executive Leadership Institute. This non-profit impacts thousands of kids annually – this was a highlight for me.

When I started the business in 2002 I was doing a lot of 1:1 coaching, then to work with more people and address team and culture, started expanding to team coaching and group work, then larger workshops and group experiences (publicly but more commonly hosted in organizations), in 2008 I started with private and group retreats, in 2009 I had to leverage myself better so I created self-paced learning programs and group run programs… fast forward to now most our business is in on-line and group programs, public programs and retreats, organizational licensing for companies who want to bring my approach to leadership development in in partnership with myself and their internal trainers, an online platform for my CRAFT Impact Program that can be done in group or individually, or simple products/experiences people can purchase from our website. In addition to this I work closely with a couple of organizations founders and leadership teams as an advisor and strategist for leadership, collaboration, and culture. It’s been a step by step approach, every step intentionally leading to scale to the next in a way that felt congruent for me and that my team could align around and be excited about.

*What few people know is that before Jake, in 1999, I had started a business on my own – in ergonomics and preventative health consulting – I got the business up and running, website, biz cards, promo materials, everything… and then I for the literally waited for the phone to ring. I was terrified to promote the business. Obviously not a lot happened. I had a few conversations with people about what I was doing – planted some seeds – but never really “asked for the business”. I didn’t know how to market. A couple months after getting everything set up – and not one single customer, but a great infrastructure (lol) – I was offered a director position with a cause I cared a ton about. I jumped on it, shut down my business, and learned a ton more about business – thru a different lens – which gave me more insight into some of the pieces I didn’t know were missing when I’d started my little entrepreneurial venture. What was funny was that six months into that job, the people I’d mentioned what I was doing in my original business started to reach out to me to work with them – but I was now unavailable. It was a great lesson for me and it was like my business initiation 101.

When I had Jake, I left that company. And a year later, started something new – my current organization. I learned from this that business takes time, that you just have to get out there and do it, that you have to be connected to the “why” of the business and how you want to serve people, truly serve them – and that if you are truly connected to that “why” – the fear of marketing and asking for the business and even “looking good” goes away because you’re almost doing a disservice if you’re not sharing your expertise. I learned a ton. I would literally not be here at this point had this not all happened. One of things I love about being in business is that the learning is constant – if you’re open to it and willing to fall, get up, shine, etc. There are endless opportunities for contribution, impact, and learning. Endless ideas.

My approach to business and leadership and my stake in the ground for energy, self-care and impact, has been highly influenced by every experience – good and bad – in my life and business and in the lives of my clients and their orgs.

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To read the complete interview, please click here.

Anese Cavanaugh is a leadership & collaboration advisor, strategist, and thinking partner for business leaders in the design, service and innovation spaces. Through her speaking, writing, and creative leadership coaching & training programs, teams rediscover and build cultures of collaboration, authenticity and healthy leadership. The result? Energized collaboration, engaged workplaces and positive impact. To contact Anese about her business or work, she can be found at each of the following places, with just one click:

Her homepage



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