When Merideth was first growing her real estate business, she felt a sense of competition with an unlikely competitor—herself.
“I went to university,” she says, “but I was not an academic like my parents. I didn’t become a dentist like both my parents, I didn’t become a star athlete like my mom.”
Still, that overachievement mentality and career modelling led her to expect great things from herself, though not necessarily related to the field of academics.
Today, Merideth has three children, two dogs, two businesses, and she’s married to a man who’s also an entrepreneur.
“When I look at other people’s lives, they have their one job that they go to, 9 to 5, and that’s it. I probably wouldn’t have thought I could pull it all off and still remain sane.”
Merideth says one thing that’s helped in that staying-sane process is to look at every day that comes as a new opportunity.
“Starting a new business, you could go crazy quickly,” she says. “You’re not making money. You’re working long days. It’s tiring.”
She knows whereof she speaks. Merideth is the founder of PROtect, a personal safety app she conceived of several years ago after a harrowing experience she had when she was meeting a home buyer.
Despite the attendant challenges of founding a new technology business, she’s maintained great relationships with family, client and investors, a success she attributes in part to the practice of chunking her time in 15-minute increments.
If she has a task she doesn’t like doing, which for Merideth includes making presentation decks, she says she’ll slot herself 15 minutes to get it started, work hard at it for that time with no distractions, and then get up from her desk and do something else.
Merideth swears by it, saying it’s incredible what can get done in only 15 minutes—if you’re focused. She then is careful to also reward herself with 15 minutes of something good as well: a bath, a bike ride, even trashy television.
The rigors of her real estate business—a career she stopped in order to devote everything to PROtect—taught her the importance of taking a moment for mini rewards: Real estate, as an industry, can be feast or famine, so when she gets that long looked-for win, she is careful to take the time to celebrate it.
She also uses her car as an office, particularly for the tasks she doesn’t want to do, such as conducting difficult conversations with clients or even her kids. The practice helps her focus and create definitive yet finite space for all the not-so-savory tasks in her day.
“The only downside with it is, I do get in the car and think about all the things I need to do.”
Still, that type of Pavlovian response is useful for an entrepreneur, since entrepreneurs are forever searching for extra time in their workdays.
Merideth says she doesn’t really have a filter for believing in limitations on herself.
“I probably should,” she says, laughing. “But I’ll think of something, and think, ‘I can’t do that,’ and then I’ll still try and do it.”
(This is something I heard from most of the entrepreneurs I spoke with.)
As a married female founder with children, she’s faced her share of sexism in the industry, too. She’s been asked out on dates during work meetings. Or investors will tell her they like the company, but then ask whether or not she has children.
It surprised her to see these kinds of things happening in Vancouver — still.
She feels she has a responsibility to share this knowledge, hard as it is, with the up-and-coming female entrepreneurs she mentors, but she says it’s also affected her ability to be present for her own events at times. It can be demoralizing, even as in her mind she shifts the fault to the offending person: “Why am I upset about this? It’s his problem!”
Still, she shows that trademark ability to pull things into perspective, which allows her to keep moving forward.
“Problems are never really that big,” she says. “Time can heal everything. What feels like a big deal today: stop, sleep on it, and it’s never as big a deal as you think it is.”
Merideth has an admirably take-it-easy approach to just about everything, in fact, and it’s so rare in the world of entrepreneurship, which, as she says, often can feel like a hardcore race to the finish line, or a land grab.
“I don’t fret about stuff.” She’s matter-of-fact, too, about the benefits of growing older and wiser: “With age comes wisdom about your appearance. I look at my friends who are so worried about being skinny-skinny, and I just feel so sad.”
“There’s a motto around our house: Just buy bigger pants.”
If there’s a better motto for entrepreneurship than that, I’ve yet to hear it.
Merideth Schutter lives and works in Whistler, B.C. She’s a mentor, investor, founder, and TedX speaker.