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Shelly Swanback

North America Technology Lead

Denver, Colorado

There’s no playbook or recipe for taking a chance. You just have to make the decision and go for it.

It was fall of 2001. I had just given birth to my first child Andrew in July and had been recently promoted at Accenture.

As I returned to work, my focus was growing our local business in Denver. At the time, there weren’t many prospects. After I scanned the area for possible leads, I settled on a well-known company that had been on the verge of bankruptcy for 15 years – and was three stoplights away from my home.  My gut told me I could make something happen with this company, so I approached my management team with the idea.

The immediate reactions were not encouraging. Several people cited our prior and challenging relationship with the company. Additionally, a handful of our previous employees were working at the company, and word of mouth suggested the culture was not welcoming to consultants.

While I recognized the concerns, I knew this was my opportunity to build a book of business in my hometown. If I didn’t take the risk, it meant significant travel and time away from my husband and son.

Motivated to make it happen, I took action immediately. I began meeting people who, at first, were not interested in what I had to offer.  Little by little, however, I gained their trust and built relationships, most notably with the new Chief Information Officer, with the goal of helping him succeed. After nearly three months of persistence, we cut our first deal.

When I had our first signed Statement of Work, I felt triumphant. I walked from office to office to show it to the people who thought it was a long shot. It was (and still is) one of the best days of my career.

But the work didn’t stop there. As I built my team, I began to develop a culture that is still special to me. Each day was about differentiating and finding new solutions. I became increasingly integral to helping the client develop its business strategy – and I even helped the CIO win a coveted award in our industry.

I truly believe some of your best experiences in life are the hardest ones. They require risk, and at times, asking for help. There’s no playbook or recipe for taking a chance. You just have to make the decision and go for it. Don’t spend your time worrying; focus your attention on where your time is best spent each day. The future will take care of itself.