Alaia Williams is a business operations strategist, speaker and community cultivator. She connects business owners with the exact resources they need to optimize their business and life. Often referred to as the “Small Biz Swiss Army Knife,” Alaia helps her clients implement practical business systems, identify new revenue and growth opportunities, and create and execute their online marketing campaigns.
Sophie: You have such an interesting profession! How did you get to where you are today, helping business owners grow their businesses?
AW: It definitely wasn’t my plan. I wasn’t even planning to be an entrepreneur really! I was working in the non-profit sector, then became a professional organizer back in 2006 (when hardly anyone knew what it was). Faced with the recession a few years later, I had to re-evaluate my business. I realized the projects I liked most and the people I enjoyed working with most were my clients that had businesses. They often asked me things like “how did you do such-and-such for your business?” or I’d find they weren’t sending invoices out for major projects. So, I started helping people focus on organizing their businesses and here I am, almost a decade after making that shift!
Sophie: How does this relate to New Year’s resolutions?
AW: Well, “get organized” is one of the top resolutions every year — I often see several new clients come on board in December and January. People want to make that big change in their life and many of them realize they need the support of someone else to help keep them focused and point them in the right directions when they don’t have all the answers. A huge thing I’ve found is that people don’t want to feel alone — they want to know that someone is in their corner.
Sophie: What’s the first thing Supergirls should do when starting to think about resolutions for 2019?
AW: Think about what’s going to be meaningful for you — not anyone else. Of course, goals like “get organized” and “lose weight” can be meaningful, but if saying it and thinking about it doesn’t motivate and energize you, it might not be the resolution to focus on this year. For 2018, I just decided to have fun. My one resolution was “listen to more Joni Mitchell.” I don’t remember what inspired it but, generally speaking, music is very important to me. Exploring her catalog was amazing. Her music has greatly impacted my life now, powered numerous work sessions, reignited my wanderlust and it turned out she had her 75th birthday this year and I attended a concert where some of my favorite artists performed her music — and Joni came out on stage. When I picked that resolution a year ago, I had no idea that 11 months later I’d be singing “Happy Birthday” to Joni Mitchell. I needed all of that more than anything else after the kind of year 2018 was.
Sophie: Do you have any tips for helping them choose a goal they’ll be able to stick with throughout the year?
AW: Goal is the keyword there. So many people make a resolution, but don’t turn it into something actionable. If your resolution is to get organized, start a business or launch a podcast, spend some time thinking about the actions that will help you get that done. Or, commit to doing what it takes to find out what those actions are. It should feel a little scary. If it was super easy, you would have done it by now, right? But again, if you’re not energized and motivated by it, its okay to go back to the drawing board and choose something else.
Sophie: What are some common mistakes to avoid?
AW: Picking something too easy. If you knock it out by January 5th, it's probably more of a task than a resolution or goal. If it's too hard and too big, you may get frustrated and give up. But don’t run from a big goal — break it down. Turn it into a four-part goal, where you complete a chunk of it ever 90 days. If you’re really disorganized, organizing your house in one month — or even three — might be a stretch. But you can certainly tackle your closet in a month, your kitchen next month, the garage when the weather is better, etc etc. Likewise, building a website and launching a business don’t happen overnight either, but you can certainly “chunk out” the requirements and knock them off your list one by one.
Sophie: What are some things anyone can do to stay on track with resolutions as the months go by?
AW: Get some accountability. That’s another mistake people make when creating resolutions. They keep them private or they don’t ask for help or seek out support. When I wanted to workout more, joining a running group for black women had way more impact than I thought it would (and I won’t lie — I don’t think I’ve been on a run since I stopped going to that group). Years ago (seriously, probably 15 years ago or more), I found an online community called 43Things where you posted what you wanted to do and other people virtually cheered you on. As a college-aged internet loving introvert, it was perfect. I’m still friends with some of the people I met. When I have a big marketing goal, I rope in other entrepreneur friends and we have daily check ins. There are also companies like Walden that pair you up with a coach that can help you map out your goal with simple steps and keep you in on track with regular check-ins. So, regardless of budget or introvert/extrovert tendencies, you can find accountability somewhere.
Sophie: Could you share some of your favorite resolutions?
AW: Once I started my business, I deprioritized reading fiction. I’m also super into personal development but, at a certain point, there are only so many self-help and business books you can read. I wanted to read more fiction, so a few friends and I started a book club. We read novels and a few memoirs to break things up. Obviously the Joni one, haha. Quitting my job was a great resolution (and a classic example of the kind of resolution you need to break into manageable action steps). Most years I go resolution-free, so those are the most memorable.
Sophie: Any last parting words of advice?
AW: Have fun — don’t let the idea of picking the perfect resolution stress you out. Make it a group effort — do something with your friends and family (more quality time, getting fit together, exploring new cuisines, etc), or find a way to get the accountability you need. These things are often much easier when we feel supported.
If you're looking for help staying accountable with your resolutions or need a last-minute Christmas gift, check out Walden where Alaia is a coach !
And for more tips, check out Walden's guide: Nailing Your New Year's Resolution.
About the author:
Anne-Sophie Bousset ("Sophie" to English-speaking friends), is a freelance marketer and community builder. She helps companies build their brand, attract clients, and build a community around their product. Her favorite things include sunshine, yoga, reading, and lazy Sundays in with her cat, Phelps. She can be found on Twitter @Sophie_Bousset.