The Confessions of a Start-Up…

Starting a business can be daunting, scary, exciting and hard-work, all at the same time.

We talk to, and work with a number of young leaders and ambitious people each week, several of whom are looking to start up a business; some not satisfied in their current roles and others are looking to make a ‘difference.’ Having been through all of these emotions, here’s some of my experiences and key things I have learned over the last year that might help.

Ideas

For some, this can be the biggest challenge. I’ve always been someone who looked at situations and tried to work out what could be done better, or looked at ways I could help — so ideas have never been an issue. The difficulty for me, was trying to work out which one, or which ones I should pursue.

Over the last few years, I have surrounded myself with people who challenged me to understand who I am, what I enjoy, what I am passionate about and to be the best I can be. I have actively thrown myself into anything that I thought might be of interest: I worked for free for a business for three months, alongside other jobs; I read; listened; studied; I spent time identifying what skills I had, or qualifications I had that other people would pay for — coaching being my primary earner. But I also pursued every opportunity confident that behind one of them would be my answer.

I’m really fortunate to find the ‘sweet-spot’: something that I love, that I’m good at and in a place I like to be, and something that pays the bills.

For me personally it involves working with people; helping them or their organisations to perform; designing strategies; coaching; or by developing their teams are all things I love to do and walking to work each day is now something I look forward to, rather than fear or go through the motions of.

Vision

Start with the end in mind… alongside the idea, is the vision. “Why do you do what you do?”

This video has been widely shared and seen by many so apologies if you’ve seen this, but I’m sure if you have you’ll understand the impact of it. There are various different ways to understand and articulate your vision, both personal and organisation. However, for me this is extremely powerful and succinct and it brought it to life for me.

A lot of the people we meet and work with have an idea, an inkling of what they want to achieve, or where they want to be — but they can’t see it. They can’t feel it. It is apparent to me that most people we meet, don’t know why they do what they do.

The more powerful, clear and real your vision is — the more motivating it is. When I talk about vision, what I mean is this: picture yourself in ten years, in fifteen years… what do you want to see? Where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing? Stephen Covey’s phrase above (start with the end in mind) is a useful exercise, although a bit morbid for some:

Imagine your own funeral. In front of your own friends and family. What is read out about you, about your life? Who were you? What impact did you have on people? What did you achieve?

I must admit, this wasn’t an easy exercise for me, I needed a quiet space, time and concentration to feel and achieve the depth I needed to make it meaningful. It had a massive impact on me, and it encouraged me to stop waiting for things to happen, and motivated me to go and make things happen. Lots of people talk, not many people act.

Mindset

No doubt — confidence for me was the biggest barrier. When I look back at the last few years, I amassed so much experience by working with different people in different scenarios. I consulted at head offices of global corporations; I travelled to different countries; coached online; worked with young children; disability groups; one to one sessions with ambitious young professionals; delivered at conferences. What was I waiting for?

If your experiences are linked to your direction of travel or your vision, it helps — you feel more at home, you learn from it, and you are more willing to throw yourself in. This doesn’t mean you are in a comfort zone, it means you are growing in self-awareness and spending more time developing and using your strengths, than in areas you aren’t brilliant in.

Not everything I did was directly relevant to where I wanted to go, but it taught me what I didn’t want or like, as much as what I did.

But again, I must admit I feel lucky to have around me a great family and friends who have supported me and believed in me… “just do it” being the most memorable inspiration. I definitely believe that they helped me develop the mindset to push myself forward, put my hand up and take more responsibility for my own direction, and ultimately the direction of the business.

Commitment

In some ways, I hate to write this down. I have always questioned my own commitment, and today looking back at it — I think it comes down to this: never before was I following my path; I was following someone else’s. What that meant to me, was that I was never sure that I would be truly content, truly happy, or even if I really knew what I was doing. But this has changed.

You cannot just click your fingers, and it all happen for you. It just does. not. happen.

Somewhere along the line, i learned how to be more patient, and at the same time, I started to work harder, and get things over the line when they needed to be done. I stayed up late, and got up early. I am by no means where I want to be, but I am now 14 months working for myself, for my family and sitting in the office of our business working daily on projects that thrill me and with people that inspire me.

Asking for Help

I couldn’t finish it without this. The biggest development I have made personally in the last few years has been the growth of my self-awareness. I recognise my strengths a lot more readily that I used to. And it feels great. But at the same time, I am also a lot more ready to understand my failures, my weaknesses and areas ‘of my game’ that other people are just simply better at than me, or love more than I do.

I have started seeking out people for help. People close to me, people I don’t know — and you know what? People have, hugely. I am a huge believer in ‘paying it forward’ (watch the movie…)

..and I cannot count the amount of people who have supported, nudged me or just outright done things for me or for the business that have helped get us on our feet. For nothing in return. No money, no favour — they have just helped. I cannot be more grateful, and I would implore anyone else to do the same: ask.