When I was reflecting on just-starting-out-in-business-ownership-me x7 years ago, I honestly can’t help but think I was almost entirely a different person, y’know?
Y’see business ownership has this effect on a person where it’s like each year in business is like a “dog year” [i.e x7 years], and you can honestly never believe the transformations that have occurred within your business [and yourself] every 12 months when you get to reflecting on that 12 month period.
And so for that reason [and as I enter my 7th year, which we now know is the equivalent of 49 years in business ownership [dog] years], I’m here on the blog today [or tonight, whenever you might be reading this] reflecting on this 7/49 year journey and trying to think about what the top x3 things I wished I’d known before I became a business owner.
Hard for me to write, because I’m a perpetual optimist [I know now this is something that is hugely attributed to the success of my business] … and so I don’t live my life thinking about the “wished I’d known’s” etc. At the same time though, there were x3 key things that sprung to my mind when I thought about what I’d have benefited from knowing before I started my business.
Here they are;
I wish I’d known me.
Because in my early years of business ownership [the first 3-4 years, I’d say], I spent the large majority of my time wanting to be something I just wasn’t … and I’d have honestly just benefited from really knowing me: my leadership style, my learning style, my particular strengths, my weaknesses, my triggers, my personal values [you get the gist].
Let’s go further back, for a second.
I remember being pregnant with my son and the hospital telling us to make sure we went to childbirth classes and breastfeeding classes etc. and [please: no judgement] I didn’t go. Because I just wasn’t craving to know how to breathe through a contraction [I figured women had done that for centuries, so I’d probably get through it too. Spoiler alert? I did. Twice].
Instead of childbirth classes and breastfeeding classes? I went to an incredible psychologist on an incredibly frequent basis for the full x9 months of my pregnancy … and I unpacked my childhood sh*t and focused [like, really focused] on making sure I went into parenthood with minimal unhealed sh*t / a better understanding of the kind of parent I was, and the kind of parent I wanted to be.
I share this story, because I really do consider my business to be like my “3rd baby” … and I often wished I’d spent x9 months investing in me [and unpacking me, and subsequently getting to know business owner me before heading into business ownership, ha!].
When I became a parent? I didn’t compare myself to others. Honestly. I was running my own race, and doing it my way because of all o’ that time I’d invested in psychologically preparing for parenthood. When I co-slept and Mother’s groupies were all like, “it’ll form bad habits” etc. I was like, “meh” … because I was so solid in knowing that an incredibly attached parenting style was the best style suited to me.
My “business baby” though? Man, I wish I could get back the first 3-4 years where I honestly wasted so much time [and so much impact] comparing myself to other business owners [and mostly neurotypical business owners, who will never do business like I do business].
I know me now [like, really know me], and I love the way I do business, which is a perfect segue to the next point …
I wish I knew I was neurodivergent
… because I only learnt this in 2020, and knowing this about myself would have been an early days game changer.
The amount of time and energy I’ve lost wondering why particular things don’t come “easier” to me, and the amount of time and energy I’ve wasted comparing myself to countless neurotypical narratives of business ownership when it just doesn’t [and never will] relate to me as a neurodivergent business owner.
These days I scroll through social media feeds and I see those NT narratives of “hustle shame” and the celebration of never having burnt out as a business owner, and I don’t even bother to read it. It’s just not relatable to me as an ADHD person. The narratives I crave now are powerful narratives from ADHD folx who’ve overcome “hustle” and worked really hard to put processes in place to avoid burnout [a very common “downside” to #ADHDlyf].
Because thanks to the narratives I choose to read from fellow neurokin, I now see myself represented in the underrepresented … and I no longer feel “ashamed” for pulling a 2am’er while I’m ADHD laser-focused on designing new HR policies for TDP from scratch, and building [via those policies] a workplace that has meant we never have anything less than 50+ resumes from standout candidates beating down the door to try to secure a role at TDP HQs.
That 2am finish wasn’t “hustle”, tbh. And actually? It gave me life writing all of our TDP HR policies in a TDP’esque tone of voice into the wee hours of [many] mornings. To my fellow neurokin? It’s absolutely ok if the thing that might be hustle culture/burnout’y to another business owner, is the thing that energises you instead of draining you.
Just make sure you’re really clear on what it is that drains you [for me, it’s too much of the extroverted stuff without a break to fill my introverted cup again]. #simple
My ASD and ADHD are some of the very favourite parts of my identity now, and whilst I’m absolutely here for every neurotypical narrative [I love y’all. I’m married to the most neurotypical human being to walk the face of the Earth, ha!] … I no longer compare myself [unfairly] to you.
While you’re there celebrating never having burnt out as a business owner, I’m designing a “burnout road map” to ensure that my autistic and ADHD burnout only rears its ugly head 2-3 times per year [which in itself, is a huge victory for me].
S’ok though, you should see how I benefit from the gift of neurodiverse lyf.
I wish I knew how long it takes to return a decent return on [time] investment
Like, if you scrolled through Instagram for even just x11 seconds? … you’d be entirely forgiven for becoming convinced that you’ll legitimately just leap into business ownership, and be turning over 6 and 7 figures in 6 and 7 seconds respectively.
I didn’t yield an income for the first x3 years, and then? It was $200 per week. And then? I worked my way up to 60k per annum, and then 80k per annum etc. And now? I earn 120k per annum, and I have absolutely worked my ring off for that. Most recently? Our CFO said to me, “you could have a pay rise, if you wanted?” and I asked, “by how much?” she answered with “40k per annum more”.
I took the 40k and used it to provide cash injections into the superannuation accounts of all female employees at TDP, and believe me … that felt a million times better than a 40k pay rise.
I have the best [virtual] CFO, and I am absolutely so comfortable with how we’re tracking etc. and I’m not going to go into TDP’s financial in’s and out’s, but I will say that with a pay run of 1.45mil per annum, it’s very obvious that I am focused more on my team [and their growth. Because their growth = TDP’s longer-term growth] right now, and less on mine.
And when I see those Instagram posts promising 6 and 7 figure launches of anything? I don’t read a single part o’ the caption [and I’d similarly encourage you to scroll on, tbh] … because 6 and 7 figure launches are just revenue, and revenue is vanity
Your profit is your sanity, and building a genuinely profitable business is something that really does take time, patience, perseverance, resilience, grit, level-headedness, and for me? ADHD laser-focus.
Cheers, ADHD 😉
What would you add?
What do you wish you knew before business ownership?