Aan Coleman is a landscape architect and the president of Coleman & Associates. As a business owner, Aan says its important that she participate in activities that are the complete opposite of what she’s accustomed to daily. Those activities include exercise in various forms including her favorite: Zumba. It’s a way for her to dance and not feel the pressure of having to be a “professional” while doing so.
Aan not only loves what she does professionally but, she also says that her career has been a tool. Her career has helped her grow personally within her space and the community. It’s been a vehicle for her to get more involved with local issues and topics she otherwise would not have been exposed to. During the growth process, Aan has collected many valuable lessons along the way. One of the lessons discussed early in the interview was: know yourself. While her business is successful, she remains true to what she knows she’ll never turn into and therefore, is transparent about discussing where her business is headed and what detours it’ll avoid. Although many people fantasize about having the largest company known to mankind with hundreds of employees, Aan talks about how these traits haven’t been on her to-do list. Her compassion towards people prevents her from being able to embrace that at times, large companies come with large daunting responsibilities, including the possibility of having to let employees go due to unexpected circumstances. Knowing herself has been important because she knows that while she’ll continue to grow her business, she won’t allow Coleman & Associates to turn into a revolving door. Before becoming a business owner, Aan recalls being in a role that was responsible for laying off a couple of hundred people in one day – a sentiment she holds vivid in her mind.
Fear is a factor Aan has not only embraced but, now uses to keep her motivated. During the interview, Aan Coleman talks about “poverty being right around the corner” with a positive attitude in order to drive and grow her responsibilities as the business owner. As a leader, Aan shares that remaining in control of that self-doubt is instrumental to her business and her peers. Creating a safe environment in the workplace is key to any business and therefore, Aan emphasizes the importance of remaining optimistic whenever fear shows up. Early in her career, her perspective towards other landscape architects in the industry was not what it is today. She mentions that while industries can be competitive, being aware that there’s an abundance of opportunities will make competitors your ally. Those competitors can also drive you to improve both personally and professionally.
While learning from personal and introspective experiences is key, Aan talks about a circumstance that made her aware of powerful women that surrounded her. Once at an event, she noticed a woman who seemed to be shaking the right hands and initiating important conversations with those that were in attendance. She made it her new years resolution to cold call her and introduce herself because she, too, wanted to know the powerful woman that had left a lasting impact on her. After meeting her, Aan learned that our perceptions of others can often times be very misleading. Even though other people seem to “have it together” and have eliminated fear from their lives, this is not typically the case. Therefore, Aan Coleman suggests that we remind ourselves we’re all in this together and have more in common than we think – regardless of what is perceived from the outside.
Aan has embraced her journey and now shares her wisdom with others to help women that seek inspiration. She emphasizes that everything is accomplished through small steps and not drastic leaps. Things that have larger rewards are typically the most difficult to obtain but, avoid getting discouraged because of this factor. On the contrary, be kind to yourself regardless of the path you’re on and remind yourself that everything achieved deserves merit and recognition.