Entrepreneur: My third year story

An honest look at the life of a young entrepreneur in 2014

My name is Greg Parry. I am 26 years old and I live in Durban, South Africa.
Three years ago I launched my first company at the age of 23, after completing a degree in Financial Management.

At the beginning of 2014, I had one Peg store in Essenwood Road, Durban. I have since opened a second store in the Pinetown area. 2014 also saw a full rebranding of both the Peg ladies’ and men’s fashion divisions, with comprehensive brand bibles being developed for both. I then launched our third state-of-the-art, e-commerce website www.pegworld.com, which replaced our 2013 site. Peg officially broke international ground this year with the signing of a distributor agreement for both Europe and Great Britain. You can go and check us out at www.pegworld.co.uk.

January 2014 saw the launch of a new business called Nork. Launched with a long-time friend of mine, we decided to run the company, 50–50. At present, Nork is only the third company worldwide to specifically design a safe, aerodynamic helmet for downhill skateboard racing. The majority of Nork’s sales are international, and we have been lucky enough to supply to people in over 24 countries.

So when I take into account all of the above, would I consider myself on the road to becoming a “successful” entrepreneur? My answer two years ago would have been (without a single doubt), “Hell yeah, I think I am!”

Unfortunately, as 2014 draws to a close, I now know that I have failed myself this year. Not in monetary terms, but rather within the realm of my personal life.

As an entrepreneur, you soon come to the realisation that your business is run by you, and you alone. At the end of the day, you are the face of that company and you can be assured that what you put in, you will pretty much always get out. You need to be on top of your game. Not just with work, but with family, friends and your significant other. You cannot and should not let your work problems creep into your social life. When this happens, it makes you an unhappy person. Unhappy people are the most unproductive ones, to say the least. Your family, friends and lover are the pillars of support that will keep you going through the really rough patches. Although some can be detrimental at times, luckily for me, I had 3 great supports in place at the beginning of 2014.

I also have a variety of friends who are always willing to listen and advise me on ideas. Some are the friends who are straight forward with me, whilst others are the friends who I can just enjoy having a good time with. My family have been amazing and play a pivotal role in my support system. They have always backed my ideas and provided me with wisdom when I have needed it most. In addition to friends and family though, it must be said that your soul mate and lover is the most important person in your life. This is because they are the person that you choose to come home to, the one who supports you and the one who provides the unconditional love that us entrepreneurs and business people so desperately need. In the beginning of 2014, I had the girl of my dreams and I can honestly say that I was completely in love with her.

And so I ask myself… Where did I go so wrong in 2014?

At the beginning of this year, and probably towards the end of last year, I could sense a change in myself. I was no longer the avid, young entrepreneur that I had started off as 2 years ago. I was trying my absolute best to make the correct decisions for my businesses and there was nothing wrong with that. In hindsight, I see that the way in which I did this, had placed my entire life into my businesses. I couldn’t even go for a surf without thinking about work because it had totally consumed me. I woke up and went to sleep each day, pondering how I could better what I was doing for my businesses. What I should have been pondering all along, however, was what I could have done better for the people that I loved.

What I didn’t realise at the time, was that I was leaving work every day with absolutely nothing left inside of me. I was an empty vessel, living with an overwhelming level of stress and the crippling fear of failing. Not wanting to fail was a major thing for me and to some extent, it still is. It was a matter of pride and I was determined to succeed, no matter what it actually cost me. This fear of failing meant that I was no longer finding enjoyment in the businesses I had once loved and dreamt for. I had become what I had always despised. The very thing I had promised myself that I would never be. I was unconsciously bringing my work and its problems home with me, allowing it to affect my relationships and life.

Had someone flipped a switch in my head that had turned me into “all-out attack-mode”? I had become so aggressive in my business approach that I could not go a day without fighting with someone. I started taking petty things and turning them into monster problems that had to be fixed my way, which was not always the right way. (Although I seemed to think so). Before I had realised that I had placed a chip on my own shoulder, I began to see things through a blurred perspective, where I had envisioned myself against the world. My persona and character changed and I had slowly started to alienate the people in my life that I cared about the most.

I started seeing my friends less and less. I stopped communicating with them as much as I used to. I started getting irritated with having to answer questions about work every weekend at braai’s and gatherings. Everyone seemed to ask me the same questions, “how is everything going?” and “how’s your business doing?” Innocent questions would force me into trying to explain to others why my businesses were not yet world renowned after only 3 years. I began to hate talking about my companies and the pride I used to take in them had started to fade.

On the personal side of things, I was dating the most amazing lady. She was caring, loving, supportive and understanding. Her love was always unconditional. If you have ever read any good entrepreneurial books in which they discuss relationships, she was the shining example of the perfect partner. What I had somehow managed to do this year, was slowly ruin our relationship, bit by bit, by constantly bringing my work problems home with me.

I was always tired and had stopped trying as hard in our relationship because I had started to take it for granted. Somewhere along the way, we had stopped taking spontaneous little trips together and the excitement had started to fade. I became very mundane with each passing week and this had started to frustrate her because my mind was clearly not in the relationship. I became very selfish and self-indulged. I had stopped giving her the love that she gave me, not intentionally, but because I was so absorbed by my work and had become obsessed with making myself successful. I found myself looking for the answer to those braai questions, which ultimately pushed away and cost me the love of my life.

If only there was some sort of time machine I could jump into and go back a year. I know that I would change a lot of things in my personal life. I would have tried so much harder to fix the child-like traits that I had somehow developed. I always did what I had wanted to do and I had lost my compassion for other people. I stopped caring about how they felt and started treating everything and everyone like simple business transactions. I was supplying the quality expected of me, with the least amount of effort possible, and this had become obvious in my personal life. If I could go back, I would show those close to me just how special they are because at the end of the day, I actually hurt them more than I have hurt myself. It’s too old a cliché, I’m afraid… To only realise how much someone really means to you once they are no longer there. I took my best friend and the love of my life and pushed her away because I was too focussed on my work. All because I honestly believed that work was the most important aspect of my life. I now know how wrong I really was.

In life, I believe that there needs to be balance and compromise. Being an entrepreneur is not easy. The statistics tell the story perfectly: 90% of all start-ups fail in the first year. Of the 10% that remain, a further 85% will fail in the next year. I knew these by heart and could recite them when prompted to, but by trying to avoid becoming one of them, I had unknowingly sacrificed my happiness.

Yes, I have created a great company portfolio in Peg and Nork, however, they have not made me truly happy this year. I have stopped most of my hobbies, which included surfing and skating, due to my perceived “lack of time.” I now believe that success should be measured in happiness and not in monetary values. I am by no means saying that you don’t need money, but being happy every day is a lot easier than being angry and upset all of the time. I believe that if you have it in you to balance both work and your personal life, then you have already won half of the battle.

There is still a lot for me to learn in life and I know that I have a lot more to learn about business. However, my outlook on life next year, will be to focus more on life, people and just being happy. This year has taught me a lot of things. The most important thing I have learned is to just appreciate the people who are there to help. Love these people, they are rare. Show them just how much they mean to you, because when you fall down, (which you will) their gentle hand will be the one that helps you up.

This was written as an honest insight into my life and experiences in 2014. Starting your own business isn’t easy, that’s the reason why not everyone does it. Finding the balance between work and your personal life can only come through experience, but reading and learning from other peoples’ mistakes (like mine) will allow you to avoid making the costly ones that they have.

Pick up the phone today and let your loved ones know that you love them. Phone a friend for a chat because I can guarantee you, they will appreciate it. Being an entrepreneur places you in the 1% of the world that can control their livelihoods and own destinies. This, I believe, makes you special and you deserve to have someone to love, who is there to love you back. Success means absolutely nothing if you have no one to share it with. Successful businesses do not always make for successful personal lives because their profits cannot buy happiness, or the love and the respect of the ones that you love, once you have lost it.

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