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Planted, not buried. Notes from the dark side of business ownership

February 5, 2018

My business is now 10 years old and it’s been a wild ride, I can tell you…..

I started my business needing it to work and when I say needing, I wasn’t talking about some deep ego-driven longing to be seen as a success, I mean of the food and shelter type. This was never going to be just pocket-money for me although neither was my business set up for the money but that’s another story.  If I’m totally honest that fact, that I needed to be on top of my money game peeved me a bit, mainly because it made things really, really hard, really, really serious and not as creative or freeing as I’d have hoped.  I had no money or time to waste and little lee-way for mistake making or navel gazing.  Even the intellectual understanding of how working ‘on’ the business rather than ‘in’ the business could help me out long-term wound me up – long-term doesn’t put food on the table NOW, doesn’t stop my little children needing me or my body needing sleep.

While things did finally work themselves into a rhythm I was reminded only last month of just how relentless  and challenging running a business can be and how lonely and challenging the dark side of business ownership is.

Here’s some of what I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Money – having a little or a lot doesn’t determine your business fate.
    • Becoming a whizz at business accounting isn’t something that many first-time entrepreneurs wish to focus on but the reality is that it is money that keeps your business going around.  Whether you have a little or a lot isn’t so much the issue here, many of the best businesses I’ve worked with over the last ten years have established themselves on next to nothing and worked up from there – this is especially true of first-time businesses.  Being fortunate enough to be able to start a business in a comfortable financial position can be great if you know what you are doing as you can quickly scale your winning ideas but if you are learning the business ropes you can chew through hundreds of thousands and fall short of the mark.  From my experience what matters is that the finances are a focus, that business owners quickly work out where their money is going to come from and where it is going to go and make sure they put more effort on keeping the ‘in’ funnel flowing faster than the ‘out’s’. Of course that sounds blindingly obvious written down but you’d be surprised how often it gets forgotten…..
  2. Selling is the hardest part.
    • So many business owners that I meet can’t bring themselves to sell their products or services, at least not in the early days. This is not surprising really as there is nothing more confronting than having to go and pitch your wears or self to the public only to be flat-out rejected, questioned or worse, ignored. Then there are those that watch and copy you, the people who think you stole from them (when in reality you may not even know who they are) and those that drain your resources by latching on quick and not leaving you alone. All of this is particularly challenging if you have doubts about yourself or your products. I spent two years being rejected in one form or another and it wasn’t until I’d had a chance to do some soul-searching that I realised my original idea sucked and what people wanted was something else entirely which I was quite well placed to offer.  Getting over yourself while not just caving in to others is a big part of selling I think – standing in your power so to speak!
  3. Discipline, you’re going to need it. 
    • Once you hit a winning stride the next issue is maintaining it.  Day after day, month after month, year after year.  Of course, things might not end up being 9-5, you might be able to take each Friday off or loll around in your PJ’s for most of Monday but at some time you have to do the work and that can be surprisingly difficult as not all work you have to do will be profitable, interesting, fun or rewarding and nor will you always feel like doing it.  The businesses that I work with that do well tend to have good stick-a-bility, they just get up and get on with it, even if it does sometimes take them a while.  Basically that ‘to-do’ list needs to keep getting done day after day after day…
  4. Steely Focus.
    • As a follow on to the discipline I also see that successful businesses have a sharp focus on what they need to be doing to bring in the dollars.  I was introduced to the concept of ‘busy work’ by a teaching friend of mine – as in sometimes kids just need to be given ‘busy work’ to keep their bodies moving while their minds have a break, as part of the education process.  Busy work in a classroom might be sorting out books,  making the room look tidy or doing some other non-essential but fairly rewarding ‘nice’ task like covering your books or drawing a title page.  This behaviour acts as a form of self soothing, makes us feel better without stressing us out – it’s like the comfort blanket of work but we need to be mindful of how much of it we do.  As tempting as it is to spend all week re-organising your files, drawing label designs or booking or attending yet another course these things can’t monopolise your 9-5 all of the time.  We all do it and we all need to do this sort of thing as it does help our brains to re-charge and relax but I’ve seen people completely lose focus of their main goal in their business and as a consequence lose momentum and with it their source of income.
  5. Being Realistic.
    • Realising that having your own business/ brand or whatever is a tough gig really helps to lighten the load. People come into business ownership for all sorts of reasons, not least for the freedom, not having to answer to anyone, maybe more flexibility or whatever.  While all of those things are possible they don’t come easy, if they did we wouldn’t be in a situation where the majority of business start-ups fail.  Realising that running your own business is going to involve lots of work is the first step to contentment and success.   I don’t mean that your work  has to feel like  a slog every day – if you plan things well and work hard you can achieve a much more pleasant working environment than you might have experienced elsewhere- but that you do have to make tough calls and put in the hard work when the business needs it and not necessarily just when it suits you (back to discipline again).  I have lots of friends who run businesses and they aren’t all out playing golf all day, every day.  While they do get to choose their holidays and can often take extended breaks when they are at work they are hammering it working long hours at times to create the space for their time out.

For me, running a business for ten years has been a great life experience and one which has provided me with ample opportunity to experience all of life’s emotions – yep, even the really, really dark ones.  It’s fun but it’s tiring,  freeing but also persistent in its neediness,  financially rewarding but only after the hard-yards have been put in. But it’s also been lonely at times – we didn’t mention lonely yet did we?  If, like me, you are planning to (or are) running a business alone it is important to understand that you will face many of your darkest challenges and your greatest triumphs that way.  Your family won’t ever really know what it’s like to be in your shoes and neither will your staff (if you have them).  Other business owners might look like they always have everything under control and it might feel that you are the only one waking up in a cold sweat at 3am and wondering how you will carry on, but you are not alone, we’ve all been there and done that.  The greatest thing I’ve learned over the last ten years is that just when you feel like you’ve been buried you realise that you have actually been planted but even that realisation doesn’t come without a fight.  Be prepared to face that and you will be OK.

Good luck and don’t suffer in silence.


7 Comments leave one →
  1. Melissa Thomas permalink
    February 5, 2018 2:33 pm

    As always, your thoughts resonate. Good to be reminded that although we may sometimes feel alone, actually we share the experience with many other determined souls. Happy 10th birthday to Realize Beauty and thank you for being the inspiration you are – the thoughtful, considered voice in a sea of shallow research and ignorance.

    BTW- I lodged a website enquire a few days ago. I see you’ve been busy but just checking it made it to you.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      February 5, 2018 2:34 pm

      Thanks Melissa, I’m glad it’s useful and comforting. I’ll check now, they come through on a separate email address.

  2. lindy permalink
    February 5, 2018 4:49 pm

    I appreciate your words and will take them to heart; I have always been a hard worker, but this is a new business for me and I’m in a push the past few months to grow a little; I can’t believe how much time it is taking. Like, 10-12 hours a day of just organizing my thoughts and writing and designing marketing material. It’s all the stuff I dislike so much! Reading your blog is kind of my busy work! A sweet, soothing break before I’m back to work. Thank you!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      February 5, 2018 5:31 pm

      I’m glad my blog is helping with your ‘busy work’ down time and I’m sure it will all be worth it in the end. The work load does ease into a rhythm eventually but be prepared for that to take some time.

  3. Donna permalink
    February 6, 2018 1:09 am

    This post could not have shown up at a better time for me. “ when you feel like you’ve been buried. Realize you have been planted ..”. Deeply resonate in me. Thanks for sharing. I carry on.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      February 6, 2018 8:06 am

      Thanks Donna, good luck on your journey x


  1. Planted, not buried. Notes from the dark side of business ownership | Pretty Random Health and Beauty Blog

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