You can spend all day, week, month trying to get it all done. Truth is you can’t. When Greg said in his book Essentialism that you may get a little further forward in many areas but not very far in one (paraphrased of course) it really hit home. We needed to stop doing it all and as fast as we could but take one area of the business and nail it. Work really hard, pop on the tunnel vision goggles and go for it. Once that was done, on to the next. This is a very simple concept which takes a LOT of hard work to achieve. It’s amazing how addictive being super busy with not much is. The lesson here (and is Greg’s not ours) is “Less but better”.
- Mental health matters
We all know that mental health is a big deal these days but until your own comes into question you have no idea what it means.
I had suffered from Post-natal depression after having my second son so I knew what dark days actually felt like. I was aware of what ridiculous, hurtful and mean thoughts my brain was capable of conjuring up for me and from coming out of the other side of depression I was always ready for the fight should it happen again. When your partner, the love of your life, your business partner, the talent of the operation (his words) falls into dark days. It gets scary. How on earth do you know what to do? The crippling fear of failure, the imposter sydrome, the money worries, the self doubt were all too consuming. I had spent so long thinking about myself and that I may be vulnerable but here was my rock feeling the lowest he ever had. We worked hard through it and know that being outdoors is a really good healer on a dark day. Getting a dog forced us to walk every day and what a difference it made! We started to take time for ourselves, play music, have down time, have digital detox days. There are still dark days but we can almost spot them and know how to support each other. Running a business is not all rainbows and unicorns so keeping an eye on your mental health and that of those around you is key to any business survival.
- Don’t be shy
This relates a little to imposter syndrome. When you hide behind a corporate brand, you can pass off failures as the company’s, you have confidence born from history, you are happy to prospect because you know people know who you work for. Running your own business makes you weirdly shy. Unless you are the uber-confident type with an application form already filled in for the next “Apprentice”. We were extremely successful sales people, why now were we feeling a little shy about what we were offering. It is bloody great. It was after a while we realised we were not selling a business service we were selling ourselves. Our true authentic selves, what WE stood for, what OUR ethics were and this was new to us. Add to that, we were pitching to well established companies….were they looking at us and thinking “what do you know about increasing sales?” and even though we knew more than most it was still a little imposter syndrome creeping in. Then one day a conversation with a friend changed it all. This lovely cheerleader pointed out that in any given meeting WE were the experts. We were in the room because that particular business needed experts and that is what we are. Once you realise that you are there because you know more about what you do that the other person in the room. Your perspective changes and the shyness drops away. I appreciate this sounds simple but it was a lesson we needed to learn.
- Ask for help
Pride. It’s a killer.
People want to help, well, most people want to help. They will do what they can to make things better if they can. Why then, when it comes to a new business do we struggle to ask for it? We saw asking for help as a failure but the reality was that we have never run a business before. Could we make great video which helped businesses increase sales? Yep. Could we tell you how to read business accounts, or where to go to start some business contracts? Nope. We foolishly thought that Google could teach us what we needed to know but the truth is it can’t. There is only so much you can fit in a day. We realised quickly that we didn’t know a lot about running a business so we went to those that did. We got a great accountant who does all the bookkeeping and VAT returns for us, we got a business coach, who helped us through our weaknesses and taught us the basics of running a business. We can call him at any time, he has run many many successful businesses and loves to mentor newbies like us (Shout out to Ian!) This is a resource that every start-up should consider. You don’t know it all, it gets overwhelming. Ask for help.
- Not everything works for you
Many people gave us pearls of wisdom when we started up. Mostly from those who had never started a business but we fell down listening to those from successful businesses.
There is no one size fits all to business:
“you should network every single day”
“you should post on Instagram twice a day”
“you should eat, sleep and breath LinkedIn”
“you should advertise in local magazines”
“you should partner with local businesses”
You should, you should, you should. This is something we heard a lot. We tried everything the successful businesses told us thinking this would make us super successful. Of course it didn’t (yet) What we realised was that all the shoulds were like ingredients to a lovely perfume. On some businesses they made them smell divine and on others it was a pig like stench. Some it really did depend which way the wind was blowing! We decided that just because some people were suited to 6am networking that for us throwing our kids out of a moving car to their Gran was causing the whole family so much stress that it wasn’t worth it. Yet some businesses credit their entire success to these super early starts. We were not going to be one of them. We tried to partner with a local business but found that unless your business ethos is complimentary it can be hell! We have tried and tested many and 6 months later feel we have a veritable Chanel No.5 on our hands now.
- Be kind to yourself
Cliché I know. But it’s true. There will be so many failings, so many times you question your sanity or chastise yourself for having a few beers in the sun instead of creating content but you need to let that go.
Starting and running a business is rewarding but it is bloody hard work. We all make mistakes and become impatient, wishing you were reaping the rewards now so you could book that cruise or be able to spend all day making gingerbread men with the kids whilst the business grows and grows. Those days may well come but for now take a deep breath, forgive yourself often and enjoy the ride.