Nekasha Pratt | Crain's Nashville

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Nekasha Pratt

Background:  

Recently named the director of marketing for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Nekasha Pratt has acquired more than 15 years of marketing experience in her career. Tourism ranks as Tennessee's No. 2 industry, and generates $18.4 billion in economic impact as well as $1.6 billion in local and state sales tax revenue. 

The Mistake:

One in particular that stands out to me was saying no to a boss on an opportunity she offered me in my 20s to join a women's networking organization. As I look back, I think of all of the opportunities that might have come from a different answer.

At that time, I was so focused on doing a great job and getting promoted at my job. I had a young family at the time, and when my boss recommended that I join this organization and connect with other people like me, I did not think I had the time for it.

I just didn't see how it could fit. It probably wasn't for maybe another few years that I realized that was a mistake. Everyone talks about juggling and how you balance your life, and I didn't realize the importance of surrounding yourself with like-minded professionals and people who can help shape you and provide advice.

I think what could have happened had I had another five or 10 years head start on what I've been doing the last five years, which is to intentionally focus on opportunities to connect with other professionals.

I often wonder where I would be now had I said yes and figured out how to make it a priority. Granted, I love where I am now and I'm in a position and an organization that I love, but I do wonder where else I could be. The relationships that I have now from joining the groups that I'm in now got me where I am today, and were very instrumental in providing leadership and opening doors. I often think I would be two tiers up or a vice president of some sort had I started earlier.

I'm a firm believer that all things happen the way they were supposed to – but you still have tthose kindsof doubts in your mind.

 I often think I would be two tiers up or a vice president of some sort had I started earlier.

The Lesson:

I'm always mindful of that now whenever an opportunity is put in front of me. I really consider if I can make it work and what the long-term consequences of saying yes or no. I am, at all times, trying to figure out how I can say yes. I now see that I have to also take advantage of relationships like my former boss who was telling me something and I didn't take her advice.

I started joining organizations in my early 30s. Regardless of what you have going on, my personal development not only helps me, but it also helps the company that I am working for. When I'm at these events and talking to people, I'm helping to further the brand of the organizations that I'm with.

I'm now in my third year with Nashville Cable and my second year with Walk for Wishes and Big Brothers Big Sisters. I'm also active in Nashville Organize for Action and Hope and Women in Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism. 

Follow Nekasha Pratt on Twitter at: @IamNekasha 

Pictured: Nekasha Pratt | Photo courtesy of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development

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