I'm not preaching at you
Everything you can learn from me comes from a hard-earned lesson I've struggled with myself.
Not everyone starts a business with a clear plan of what they want to achieve and how.
Most people don't understand how much that would help them.
And I really do get that. I do! Because that's exactly how my business started.
Like so many, my self-employment journey started after I became a parent. But mine wasn't initially from a financial requirement.
I've got the kind of brain that gets restless. While I was on maternity leave I needed to do something for myself other than just parenting my newborn, or catching up with friends.
As much as I would love to live the life of a tv sitcom stay-at-home-mum, I'm not cut out for endless lunch engagements and kids social interactions.
I crave challenge - although not the kind my kids like to throw my way.
The kind of challenge that really lights my fire is strategy. Its pulling apart the things that burn people out, identifying what lights them up and then creating a plan to put it all back together in a way that works for them to create success.
While I was on maternity leave, I increased my voluntary contributions as a business mentor. And because I've always valued collaboration, I often referred my mentees to professionals that I trusted to support them with the needs beyond my skillset.
The more I referred, the more enquiries I started to field in my own expertise. And I recognised the opportunity this presented and leapt upon it. Ok, it was more of a slow crawl - but I did take the opportunity up.
I didn't do it terribly well, it was pretty haphazard and reactive. I didn't tout for work, work found me. But it met my need for that mental challenge and it gave us extra money for more than just paying bills.
As the work started to increase, I found better systems. But mostly I just organised my clients needs and ignored my own.
Then a tragedy struck friends, a serious illness and the financial implications that went with it derailed their lives overnight.
I could see potential to support them somehow, so I approached another friend with a plea to nut out how we could help.
From business owner to charity founder
That situation resulted in another start-up, this time a not-for-profit. Again, it wasn't terribly well thought through at the start, and was more reactive than proactive but it got shit done and met a need - for them and for us.
In fact, despite our inexperience and amateur planning, the impact we made was enough to turn the concept into a bigger organisation that supported more people.
We built a pretty impactful organisation, and we managed to create a sustainable program of funding and supporters with less effort then many manage.
Unfortunately all of this eventually took a toll on me.
My half-arsed proactive planning action in both of my organisations meant I would be overloaded most days with things that had to be done.
I wasn't costing things out to include all of my time, and I was treating myself as an afterthought instead of the most valuable asset in my business.
In the charity, I wasn't delegating effectively and so was doing the bulk of the mahi. That's a really common flaw that many charity founders share; being too entrenched in operations and not in the actual governance.
That one in particular cost me. I didn't manage the board well and there were rumblings amongst players, that resulted in lost confidence, which in turn impacted momentum.
That's one of the biggest issues with founders: Their potential for success being impacted by their inability to get out of their own way.
Either they think they're ten-feet tall and bulletproof because everything is going swimmingly, as if that's a sign of incredible skill. Or, they are overwhelmed and on the fast-track to burn out with a hefty dose of anxiety questioning their every move.
Neither of these are sustainable in the long-term. Eventually things crash and burn from the pace.
I was proof of that. The most frustrating thing for me was that I had been there before, but I still didn't recognise the signs until I was in the thick of it.
Realising that gave me the kick up the pants I needed and I started to build my processes up.
Soon after this, the world locked down. While that was shit for many businesses, the rapid way everyone embraced Zoom as the new way of doing business gave me opportunity to grow my business with a wider audience.
I moved from only working in person to working online across the country, changed services from "done for you" to "done with you, and that one in particular came with its own challenges. I experienced mission creep, the impact of poor business boundaries and a change in client types.
I knew more had to change. I was overwhelmed and the effort was not matching my bank balance.
For the first time, I spent significant money on working with people to guide me. I didn't just build better processes for managing my work, I got professional guidance and support in getting my business to work for me.
Four years into my accidental business, I changed the way I did everything. My business model became more intentional, I proactively took action and tracked data. And I supported it all with processes and systems that I developed.
Hindsight is almost always twenty/twenty
My journey has been an evolution of business, just like many others have been. But shit it would have been so much simpler if I had taken this approach at the beginning.
The thing is though, I couldn't take this approach at the beginning because I didn't know how to.
Despite having over 15 years of business experience at the start; years I spent working alongside organisations and teaching them what their business obligations were, I didn't have "running my own business" experience. That brings an entirely different skillset into the mix.
I couldn't know what I didn't know.
I knew how to write strategy and create different kinds of business plans, I knew what I legally had to do. I understood brand positioning, and pricing, and how to create a customer avatar. I was excellent at organising, and highly efficient at crafting comprehensive personnel processes and organisational policies.
Most of all, I knew impact and purpose.
But what I lacked was a cohesive comprehension of weaving all of these strands together, with me in the centre.
I knew all of those things but I didn't know how best to do them simply from the start.
It is so easy to guide people from the outside looking in. Clarity is plentiful when you have no obstacles in your way.
When I started the charity, I knew what we legally had to do. I knew what was required of us as a governance board. I knew what the operation component needed to involve and how to undertake fundraising.
But until that moment I had no experience of exactly what was involved in bringing all of that knowledge together cohesively.
Starting a business is simultaneously easy and incredibly complicated
Start-up business is a hard phase. It's hard because to get things right requires expertise and experience, and if you don't have either then paying for that really is necessary - but cashflow isn't typically available to do it.
What people typically overlook though, is that start-up business isn't a time limited phase; many spend years, or even their entire business journey, in this phase.
A lot of businesses that fail never actually left it, and their failure is a symptom of a system that prevented them from growth by not making the right information readily accessible from the outset.
The information and support methodology I teach my clients isn't unique to me, but it does come with over 20 years of experience and resulting expertise that is uniquely mine.
I've made mistakes, big ones, and I've put processes in place to prevent those happening again. And believe me, those have been tested more than once, refined and tested again.
Business is a constant evolution of skill and expertise, but what many don't realise is that every phase of business is test-mode until you nail the formula. And then when that starts to falter (and it will), you start testing again.
There is a glut of information and guidance out there to guide people in business - for commercial and not-for-profit entities. Some is great, some is quite frankly shit, and not all of it is suitable for right now; the complication is in finding the right information for your scenario at the right time.
And that part is why it is so important to work with people who know what they're talking about.
That's why your Facebook group is not the right one to ask accounting or tax questions in, or why you shouldn't ask for legal guidance of people that aren't qualified to give legal advice.
It's why it is helpful to have more than one trusted advisor, and why those people should know their limitations and have other people in their professional sphere that they can recommend to fill gaps.
Because expertise comes with the awareness that our experience might be extensive, but it is still limited. Most experts have knowledge in a broad range but we have spent years honing our skills to specialise in a particular niche.
You can't ask for what you don't know you need. But if you need business support, the right expert can help you to identify what that need is.
Most of the time I recommend to start with a strategist. Yes I'm biased in that opinion, but that's because strategy is big picture. By looking holistically at your situation, it becomes easier to identify what the need is; ad most times that isn't getting more eyes on your social media posts.
Feeling stuck? Get my support Now
Whether you're ready to work with an expert or you want to tinker on your own with guidance, I can help you to take the right kind of action.