7 years of business ownership: what a milestone.
I remember being at another business owner’s 7th birthday 3+ years ago now, and I looked around and said to myself, “this is what I want. This. Exactly this”.
The truth? … I’ve surpassed that particular goal, and I did it sooner. I’m not sharing this arrogantly, or competitively, just … honestly. And with the complete transparency that Autistics are renowned for. Because what I’m about to share below will hopefully highlight that my having surpassed that particular business goal earlier on within my business doesn’t necessarily mean that I “won” [in fact, there have been many failures, ha!].
And so I’m sharing today the 7 things I’ve learned in 7 years of business ownership, because I want you to realise that you too could be looking around at what another person has accomplished in business at a party craving the kind of “success” that they have … when the reality is that success looks different on everyone.
I remember wishing for things that I saw at that particular party, that – when I accomplished them within my own business – felt terrible for me: bringing home the absolute truth that what feels like “success” to one person, will feel entirely different to another.
It brings me to what I wanted to talk to you about today, which is the 7 things I’ve learned in 7 years of business.
You’ll only be respected, if you respect yourself.
Funny how “business truthbombs” apply as “life truthbombs” and vice versa, eh?
I can take this outside of business ownership chats for a minute, and take you further back to bring the truth of this statement home if you like?
When I was at school, I attracted some of the wrong friendships because I didn’t respect myself. My first paid gig as a 14yo at McDonalds was a little brutal, because my Managers didn’t respect me … because I didn’t respect myself [think keeping me back for up to an hour post-shift without being paid for that hour, while my Dad sat steaming angry in the car park waiting to pick me up]. When I married [and I married young], I still hadn’t really learned myself [and I subsequently didn’t respect myself] so I’d say that in the earlier days of marriage to my husband, he didn’t respect me as much then … because I didn’t respect myself [I’m still married to this person, but it’s a really different marriage now: we married young. Grew up together. And evolved].
By the time I rolled into TDP? … I rolled into it within a business partnership, and yup, you guessed it: I was completely disrespected in that partnership, but the onus is on me there [and not that particular person in question] because I didn’t respect me. At all. So how could I expect this person to respect me?
Hiring employees? Respect yourself, so that your employees can respect you. Servicing clients? Respect yourself, so that your clients can respect you.
And if you don’t respect yourself, and don’t know how to even begin to? Work with professionals to help you do just that: I use a confidence coach and a business coach. And they are both so important to me.
The 9-5 mindset not only damages – but limits – creative businesses.
Even as we head into our third year of this [GD] pandemic, there are so many who are still trying to subscribe to the 9-5 thing … and the problem with that for me is that creativity doesn’t work like that.
In one financial year for TDP? I individually generate between half a million dollars to 750k for my business, so I know I’m one of its incredibly important assets … and yet I slogged away at that incredibly archaic 9-5 thing, when – actually – I do my very best work from 5am-9am [please don’t take this as advice for success. We’re all different. I’m no Gary Vee. Fuck Gary, tbh. lol. I’m just letting you know that I’m an incredibly early riser, because I love mornings and my brain is on fire from 5am’ish].
Pre-pandemic? … I’d just potter around the house getting the kids ready for school etc. and then driving into the offices to “start” work at 9am, and I never knew I was wasting x4 hours of my very best work. And I was wasting this up to x5 days per week. And in those x4 daily hours? I can work on things that drive that aforementioned half a mil – 750k per annum to this business.
Like, think about it: who told all of us that we were meant to work from 9am-5pm? How did that become a thing? Who made this “the thing”? Was it cis white males in the 1950’s who left home while their wifey held the fort on the home front, and the domestic load front, and the mental load front, and the everything-else-so-they-could-work-9-till’-5 front? Is it the neurotypicals who slide into an office seat at 9am and are like, “well, alright. I’ll work then?”.
Repeat after me: the 9-5 mindset not only damages – but limits – creative businesses.
You have to celebrate your successes.
Wanna know the fastest route to burnout? … it’s not celebrating your successes.
Believe me. I know. My Autistic profile leans towards shying away from celebrating any kind of personal or professional successes, because I [used to] see it as something that was unnecessary, and maybe a little bit arrogant, and maybe even a little attention-seek’y.
How wrong I was.
What I can confidently tell you now is that if you don’t stop to celebrate your success[es], they’ll just pass you by. I know this, because I’ve had some really notable successes as a business owner … and I’ve been so ADHD laser-focused that I haven’t even stopped to acknowledge that success [instead moving on in a laser-focused fashion towards the next goal].
The subsequent burnout? … it’s not pretty. You’ve got to stop. You absolutely have to pause. You have to go back to goals you wrote down and recognise [and celebrate] that you hit those goals … and you not only have to celebrate that, but you kind of have to make a big deal about it [reward yourself].
For example? I have just created a signature learning program for TDP that has subsequently sold out and created multiple 6 figures for my business … and to celebrate that? I’m going to book a holiday for my family to the Whitsundays.
Because I can. Because the program has been hugely successful for my business. Because I worked days, nights and weekends to bring that program to life. And because if I don’t reward myself, I’ll burnout from the lack of recognition alone.
See ya soon, Qld. [promise not to bring COVID]. lol.
It gets lonely: really GD lonely.
This one hit like a tonne of bricks: because I wasn’t prepared for the loneliness [at all].
I remember being at an event with other business owners pre-pandemic and I was undoubtedly the smallest business there and they all said, “wait until you reach the point where you’re not allowed to be friends with your employees: it’s the loneliest experience you’ll ever experience, because you absolutely love your team, and you’re a human being, and you’re wired for connection, and you want [like other professional humans] to have colleagues that feel like friends … but you can’t have that”.
They then said, “to add extra salt into the loneliness wound? You’re a business owner. So you work so GD much that you don’t get to see your friends a lot … or if you do? You’re so exhausted that you don’t give as much to the friendship”.
I realised I’m at this point in the last 12 months, and it was rock bottom loneliness. I’ve gotta tell you. Rock bottom loneliness.
I cried. I grieved. And I am now doing my best to reduce my workload to more stable hours so that I have something more to give my friends, and can subsequently fill my need for connection up elsewhere.
Money isn’t hard to make. At all. Profit is.
TDP makes a lot of money, but profit? Well, like every business … that’s an ongoing work in progress.
I’m realising more and more that it’s having emotional agility that makes TDP the most profit: emotional agility is the ability to say no to the red flag client who you know will burn a most gigantic hole not only in your profit and loss statement, but – more importantly – your employee morale [the biggest, most important profit and loss statement].
Emotional agility is being able to have difficult conversations with beautiful clients who are unintentionally scope creeping … and – again – burning that hole in the P&L statement.
Emotional agility is being able to navigate the hard conversations in general, tbh … and doing so because you know every single hard conversation and thing leads you one step closer to the extreme difficulty that is associated with owning a profitable business.
Making money? Easy. Seriously easy. Making profit? You’ll never go on another Ninja Warrior course like the one that’s associated with ensuring your business is a profitable one.
Craving true freedom in business ownership? Learn how to serve others without expecting anything in return.
I’m sharing this, because this realisation set me free [and is still setting me free].
I give [so much] to my employees, and I don’t expect anything in return [other than high quality work they’re being appropriately remunerated to produce]. I give so much more than I am ever given in return, because it would be toxic [and borderline corporate psychopath] for me to expect anything from my team other than the above and beyond they already do: which is showing up to work, producing high quality work, and just … positively contributing to our workplace culture in general.
I serve our clients, and I don’t expect anything in return. I serve our online community, and I don’t expect anything in return.
All humility aside? I serve my little heart out, tbh. I’ve Uber’d rapid antigen tests to an employee in a regional location [$200+ Uber fee], because that employee needed them. And I do this because I am – by dictionary definition – a servant leader, who lives to serve and doesn’t expect anything in return.
[this is just one teeny example in a very typical week for me: a passionate servant leader].
The difference between performatory servant leadership and genuine servant leadership? Performatory servant leadership serves in a way where something is always expected in return [and if you’re in this kinda space? You’ll build so much resentment, and the resentment will become toxic].
Servant leadership in its true form? It serves without any expectation of anything in return.
Realising this and truly leaning into it … is true freedom.
Investing in your business is crucial.
Everyone’ll tell you this. Google will tell you this. We all know this. It’s pretty obvious … but I’ll simply add to the chorus for my final point in this here blog post by saying that investing in your business is crucial.
Resources. Resources just before you’re really ready. Resources because you know if you don’t invest, you can’t grow. Internal promotions. Promotions that’ll take another 10-20k off your Founder salary in the short-term … but add more in the long-term. Blind faith. Gut instinct faith. Calculated faith. The right outsources. The right external partners [for us, that’s business coaching, leadership consulting and accounting]. The new website. The rebrand.
And … you.
This year, and after x7 years of sacrifice? My goal is a salary that reflects my talents and contributions to this business, and end of year dividends to give back to my own family [who have themselves, sacrificed so much so that this business could be where it is today].
It’s time to repay them, and me. 😍
Does any of the above resonate with you? Did any of it inspire? Did any of it teach you?