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Priya Bates | Toronto | Fight That Internal Voice

After receiving my degree in Science from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, I felt lost knowing the last thing I wanted was a career in Science. I took a few years to work in customer service while I figured out what was next. I finally decided to apply to a certificate in Public Relations at Humber College. I haven't looked back since. I found a profession that I absolutely loved.

My in-house career journey took me from pharmaceuticals to telecom, technology and retail. I also went from customer communication to realizing my passion for employees and the realization that we could make a bigger difference from the inside out using internal communication strategy to turn strategies into results, values into behaviours and brand promises into customer experiences through a people approach. Three of my organizations - Compaq Canada, HP Canada and Loblaw Companies Limited - were recognized as Top 100 Employers and Loblaw became a Most Admired Corporate Culture. We accomplished these accolades while the companies went through transformational change. I think I realized that Internal Communication was my passion and helping organizations drive results, limit disruption and engage employees during transformation was my superpower. I always dreamed of being a consultant and owning my own business, but my track record of success made it very hard to leave companies that paid me well and helped me progress. At a certain point, I hit a ceiling where the conversations turned to my need to stop my focus on Internal Communication in order to progress higher. I realized that I couldn't give up my passion and that the best way to continue to progress was on my own terms in my own business. Inner Strength Communication just turned seven on April 24 and I recently launched a new business tested in 2020 and incorporated in 2021 called A Leader Like empowered community in the diversity space.

What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?

The biggest hurdle was a lack of confidence and courage. I always dreamed of being an entrepreneur but I also enjoyed my corporate career working for big companies and having a title, expense accounts, company credit cards, people to manage, benefits, perks and stability knowing you had a paycheck coming in regularly. It was hard to let go of that for a life of uncertainty and the possibility of failure. At a certain point, I knew I wasn't growing. I knew that I was turning 50 soon and I believed that if I failed, it would be easier getting a job back into corporate if I was under 50. At 45, I also started asking actively to be let go and receive a package during organizational restructure. It took them three years to finally realize it was what I really wanted. It was a nice way to start, having a bit of a financial cushion while I built the business. For those who are serious about wanting to start a business, I now tell them to save to help you through building your business and in some cases, moonlight as an entrepreneur (as long as there is no conflict with your day job) while you build your base for when you cut the chord officially.

What books are you currently reading?

I just finished A Promised Land by Barack Obama,

The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown and The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.

My audio library has The Four Sacred Gifts by Anita Sanchez and Oprah's new book called What Happened To You.

Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your pursuits?

How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?

Yes. It's hard to explain what Internal Communication is exactly. Families understand professions like doctor, engineer, lawyer, accountant but trying to explain what communication is tends to be difficult. My father also thought I was crazy leaving a good solid job with a big company for the instability of entrepreneurship. Once I was confident and knew that my immediate family was fine, I don't worry about it any more. As I get older, and in hindsight, I care less and less about what others think and instead focus on living my purpose and my passion.

What would you say was the single most influential factor in your success?

I'm really good at what I do, and most of my business now comes from referrals or people who see me speak. I've been good at getting on the speaking circuit to build my brand and reputation as an Internal Communication thought leader. This is a really active effort ensuring that I share information regularly with my audience.

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started?

I wish I had started moonlighting earlier and I also wish I had negotiated the ability to freelance while I was earning my severance (which was a salary continuance model). Apparently it's easy for HR to say yes as long as you don't accept a full time job. This would have allowed me to say yes to some earlier contracts versus having to wait for six months.

What advice would you give to an upcoming youth or talents locally and internationally?

There are a lot of factors that can get in your way to success that are external that you can't avoid or have to plan for, but don't let your challenges be internal. Sometimes you have to get out of your own way to be successful. Fight that internal voice that tells you that you can't or that you are not good enough. There is also a lot of freedom when you realize that it's more important that you gave your dreams a chance versus being afraid to try. That everything in life is an experience and even if I had tried entrepreneurship and discovered it wasn't for me, that's a win as well because I learned something about myself. I think we sometimes are so afraid of the judgement of others that we're afraid to do new things.


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