101: Wow, You’re So Lucky!

101: Wow, You’re So Lucky!

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Wow, You’re So Lucky!

Luck is not chance, it’s toil; fortune’s expensive smile is earned.

~Emily Dickinson

“Wow, you’re so lucky!” a friend exclaimed. I cocked my head. That’s an odd reaction to front-page news that I had helped launch a new investment bank as a Partner and CFO. Then three other people said the same thing. Why are they saying that? Sure, I’m fortunate to have the opportunity, but it’s not like I got the job through a scratch-off lottery ticket or Publishers Clearing House unexpectedly showed up at my door.

I knew that people said odd things unwittingly and I couldn’t let their insinuations make me second-guess myself. Maybe I didn’t fit the bill of what they envisioned. My varied career background? Or that I was a mom with a husband, two kids, and lots of pets? Who knows.

At the time, I was publisher of a leading technical industry magazine. A former colleague (I had been his client when I worked in finance at an oil and gas company) approached me with his vision for starting an investment bank. “I’d follow you into a fire,” I quipped, as I had always had tremendous respect for his capabilities, values and leadership. “Besides, how hard could it be?”

Actually, I knew it was going to be really hard. At that point, I had been working nearly twenty-five years, so I had an appreciation of the scope of the tasks ahead of us. Of course, there was also the bliss (or anxiety) of the phenomenon of “not knowing what you don’t know.” What I did know, though, was this was a great strategy and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to try and build something new. No time like the present.

And so, with the full faith that we would succeed, I quit my job and we opened shop in his pool house. Day one, we floundered and poked the non-responsive fax machine. I quickly realized we needed severe administrative intervention. And that first hire was indicative of all subsequent hires: recognizing that each of us brought something to the table and no one person knows everything. Nothing is more rewarding — from my perspective — than team problem solving.

I was committed to working with the best and brightest to serve corporations in the energy industry. Our clients needed capital, strategy and guidance in how to build their businesses. Culture trumped everything, and finding the best “athletes” was our guiding rule.

As planned, within months, we combined with a leading equity research firm and moved out of the pool house. We quickly grew to more than two dozen folks, and within a few years we had nearly 200 employees. Each day I worked with colleagues tackling new issues even more daunting than unresponsive fax machines: raising a private equity fund in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis; navigating the regulatory maze of foreign banking requirements to open overseas offices; developing processes for our growing team while maintaining an industry-leading culture and entrepreneurial spirit.

And whenever I hit an emotional roadblock because I was frustrated or unheard or battling doubts — I would pause. You can do this. Luck wasn’t the driving force; it was conviction and commitment.

A decade after our founding, we combined with a global financial services firm and we are still building. Today our combined organization has offices in eleven cities and more than 600 of the best people in the industry.

Okay, so maybe I am really lucky.

~Alexandra Pruner

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