Ok so firstly its 15 months and secondly its been that long since I wrote an article I can’t quite remember how to do it, luckily LinkedIn makes it fool proof. So I’m finally putting pen to paper, its been sooo long. I can’t help but feel my first truth is going to be something aligned to my lack of creative juices that running business can drain you of but I’m more than partly to blame on that front.
So we are over a year in, a lot has changed and strangely a lot hasn’t, importantly however we are still going. We’ve created three business lines across the consultancy and its taken a lot time and effort and ideation to get us there. We continue to bootstrap, this term I didn’t know existed until I embarked on this journey, now I know its a term you have to come to love, love it for all its hardship and refrain from the lure of capital investment as debt is cheaper than equity. My business partner Rod talks fondly of bootstrapping, he says its the best part of any start-up and he loves this time in the business’s lifecycle you will often here him quote;
“when you reach the summit and exit, its the early days of scrapping around and street fighting that you look back on and miss the most”.
As a father of two kids I find it tough to balance it all and it feels like I’m bootstrapping parenting at the same time. I often think about the 80 year old Luke and what I will look back on that will always bring a smile to my face. I know it’s going to be the journey, the early days, the rawness of it all, from the innocent smile on my children’s faces to the innocent look on my own when I make another ‘new business owner mistake’.
So with that in mind, I wanted to capture my thoughts and share with you what my Top 5 observations, lessons, truths were now we hit another milestone. I want to do this for a few reasons, firstly so I don’t forget in the years to come what I felt and what it was like and secondly it might just help you on your unique journey whatever path you’re taking.
So here we go…
1.) Get your business to wipe its face before spending hours on your ‘culture’.
Those who know me, know I’m obsessed with understanding how the most successful entrepreneurs and organisations have scaled, remain financially strong and importantly built respect through their unique culture. I learnt the hard way over the past year, I spent a long time on stuff I thought was important that turned out to be immaterial. I would read a leadership book or hear a great story about another business and I would implement some element of change in our culture or at least spend hours thinking about it. Then we hit a really tough period and nothing but getting us back on track financially mattered. It hit home that without the business at least breaking even we didn’t have a business. Simply getting people focussed on delivering an outcome that benefits both themselves and the business, is enough to generate a culture that will manifest over time. Don’t force it, let it morph.
2.) Your passion for the business and energy ebbs and flows…and that’s ok.
People always ask “how is it going?” which is great and I appreciate the interest but at times when things aren’t going that well or you just aren’t feeling that passionate about the business, like anything in life, its a hard question to answer with any enthusiasm. It worried me the first time when my levels of interest and energy dropped off you hear how people would work for free they are so passionate about the cause. That’s not me. That’s not this business to me. We are here to build something special yes and change peoples lives for the better absolutely but it has to reward in the same way I put the effort in or you have to question was it worth it? Its only natural. Then it all comes back and you feel alive again just like you did at the start. Then it drops off again. You get used to it! You have to remain focussed and keep working hard on the 1%ers and realise that its just normal, like anything in life, its a range of emotions and you have to just keep going. As cliche as it maybe, you just keep showing up and putting one foot in front of the other and eventually you look back on how far you have come.
3.) Still seeing the same faces in the team from day one, means more than I thought it would.
You read about how the best companies “went to great lengths to hire the best talent” and you often sit there thinking; do I really have the best team? do I have A-Grade talent that will do incredible things? Is this the nucleus that will get us to the promise land? The answer to that question is completely subjective, I think we have a great team but I used to sit there thinking “are they the best?” should we be going to greater lengths to hire ‘better talent’. The reality is we all have our strengths and we all have our shit to deal with that makes us human. Ultimately though, we all want to feel connected to something. I often look around the office and think, its so awesome that these people choose to work here, choose to try their hardest and for some reason through that struggle, we are connected and feel like we can’t let the other person down we are well and truly ‘in the trenches’ together and why perhaps that phrase is so widely used. I won’t give up and I know this group won’t until we realise what we set out to achieve. And by the way, if they do, that’s ok because nothing is forever but I have a hunch we will be playing together for a while.
4.) Get comfortable with being REALLY uncomfortable.
Ever get that feeling of confusion, discomfort, not in control and not knowing what might happen next. That’s the uncomfortable feeling and you live with it everyday. The best analogy I’ve been given to help with this feeling; “if you’re on the back of a horse, you have two choices you can either hold on for dear life and white knuckle it or you can loosen the straps and enjoy the ride. My advice is to avoid that ulcer in your stomach and loosen the straps. Be the palm tree not the oak tree and sway in the wind of change.
5.) Surround yourself with people you trust.
Do I need to elaborate? Probably not.
5.1) Continue to laugh.
As I mentioned in my blog at the 6 month mark, we continue to laugh everyday and continue not to take ourselves too seriously. For that I will be forever grateful for the people we have around us and look back on this journey with a smile.