The irrepressible Audette Exel has built a business for purpose from the ground up. Over 17 years ago, she left her rewarding job as Managing Director of the Bermuda Commercial Bank to set up the now-called Adara Group, comprising of a corporate advisory business, Adara Advisors, that supports the administration and overhead costs of its own international development organisation, Adara Development.
Adara Development works side by side with communities in Nepal and Uganda to improve their lives through health and education and other development projects. We asked Audette to share some life advice with the millennial generation – or anyone at a crossroads, really.
I would say, do not be afraid to think outside the box. Lots of people will tell you that you have to walk down a path that other people have walked down, but this is because they’re afraid for you, if you try to do something that’s off the path.
You get this voice – whether it’s from your mum, your dad, or whoever – saying, ‘You have to do this. You have to have a conservative career. You have to study this. You have to get a mortgage; get a house.’ Or, ‘You can’t be an entrepreneur, nobody does it that way.’
Whatever the message is, it goes out from society to say that there’s a safe way to plan the world and then there’s an unsafe way to plan the world.
Stand up for your big and crazy dream
So my message to young people or anyone at a crossroads is to never ever be afraid to walk off the path.
Do not let your own fear and other people’s fear put a cage around you in terms of what you’re going to do. This world has been changed by people who had really big, crazy dreams – and that’s where you want to stand on the planet.
The other thing I’d say is that people often don’t step off the path because they’re afraid to fail and they’re afraid to make mistakes. I think young women particularly have a real fear of failure and sort of a deep sense that they’re not quite good enough. It’s in our blood, right? It’s thousands of years of social conditioning.
To that group – to people who are afraid to fail – I often say to them, ‘What’s so bad about failure? Are you not going to be able to eat tonight? Are you not going to be able to find a place to sleep? If you fail in this mad-capped venture are you going to learn something that’s going to take you to the next amazing thing you’re going to try?’
Looking back, my parents gave me this huge permission to fail and it let me open my arms and kind of fly, in hindsight. I was incredibly well loved and I always knew that if I fell on my face, it would be okay. As a result of that, I have fallen on my face a hundred times. But you know, here I am. I’m still here. I’m still trying to do it better and bigger and smarter – and I still make mistakes. Just don’t let anyone stop you on your path.
Our world is in the hands of these seventeen-year-olds. They are engaging with this world through the lens that the internet has brought, and they are connecting globally. They have access to information that we didn’t previously, and they are redefining boundaries. I have the greatest confidence that they are going to do really astonishing things.
Audette Exel was the youngest woman worldwide to sit as the Managing Director and head of the Bermuda Commercial Bank. She was thirty at the time. In 1998, she founded the ISIS Group, now called the Adara Group, a unique model of business/non-profit partnership. These days, she personally heads the corporate finance arm of the organisation, which funds its development arm and provides support for communities living in poverty across the world.
Written by Thread Publishing (threadpublishing.com). Connecting the world one story at a time to bring humanity back into business. © 2015
Photo credit: Audette Exel in Uganda, Viktor Hanaeck (picjumbo)