It’s a sunny Friday afternoon when I meet with “The Two Sam’s” (one male, one female, both equally fabulous). They are from Kent Women in Business, and after the coffee’s were ordered and we’d settled into the homely Vauxhall pub in Tonbridge, we got to chatting about all things Biz shaped.
Very exciting things are happening for the magazine, at the same time I’ve launched my humble start-up teaching Burlesque inspired dance classes across the area (hen do’s, birthday parties and corporate workshops to boot as well – shameless plug alert). It wasn’t long before we realised we had a lot in common with our new directions on the journey of bringing something you’re passionate about to as many people as possible; the ideas sparked and we chatted for ages about the exciting possibilities that lay in front of us. Asked to contribute to the next issue of the magazine, I came away reflecting on everything that was involved in starting up your own business and taking something that begins as a vision, and follows through to the steps of creating yourself made reality.
The road of business is rarely a straight one. The road of a start-up however, is more like a ride at Thorpe Park with an insane high one minute and a vertical drop the next – and no one’s told you how long it’s going to last for!
You have an idea, you spend months in planning mode, getting excited, creating and imagining what it will be like to look at the fruits of your labour one day and think “I did that”. There is so much to learn and ‘overwhelm’ can easily become the most frequently used word in your vocabulary. Yes, you have all the admin related tasks – deciding on your business name, registering it with HMRC, sourcing insurance and everything else “necessary” that comes with taking the first step on that long and winding road. There are thousands of books, government resources and a wealth of information on the internet that can help you with all of that. But, the one thing they don’t tell you is that nothing can prepare you for how much you suddenly have to learn about yourself. That’s why this piece is going to focus primarily on mindset, and the daily experience of finding out exactly what you’re made of.
In the spring of 2016, I made the decision to move from Nottingham where I had lived for the last 9 years to Tunbridge Wells. A southerner from birth and always by heart, the time came when I wanted to be closer to my friends and family. I had been teaching burlesque dancing for an existing fitness company and had absolutely fallen in love with it. So, when I decided to move, I decided that this was my opportunity to take it with me and set up on my own. Everything made sense in my head. I did my research, I wrote my business plan and the same week that I moved, I launched myself into finding venues to hold my classes at. Creating everything behind the scenes at record speed. The thought that it wouldn’t work out didn’t enter my head for a second…. until January 1st 2017, a month before launch. I freaked out. And that freak out went on for a good 8 or 9 weeks! All of a sudden I was crippled with fear that I’d made a huge mistake, it wouldn’t take off and I’d look like a classic idiot in front of everyone I knew. That’s when I realised it didn’t matter how much I worked on the business, if I didn’t also start working on myself, I was going to be in trouble.
You see, I very quickly learned that in becoming a solo start-up, you’re going to come face to face with who you truly are on a daily basis. Not the person who’s hilariously funny after a couple of drinks, not the person who sometimes slacks off for an hour when they feel like it because you know you have a pay check coming in at the end of the month – but who you really are underneath all of that. Because when your dream suddenly depends on you showing up for yourself every day, there’s no avoiding it. Fear of failure rears its ugly head; not just the fear that you will fail. The fear that you will fail in front of an audience. The good news is, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The key is to recognise it, acknowledge it and accept it. I’m not a fan of the phrase “feel the fear and do it anyway”, because I don’t believe anything successful can come from a place of fear. But to feel the fear and accept, fully, that that’s what you’re working with right now; you give it permission to be, and as such, allow
it to be released.
We all want things we do to be successful, it’s in our nature of survival. It’s natural to get scared when you don’t see immediate results. What’s imperative is that you keep showing up and stay consistent. A two month old business is not going to act like a two year old business. A two year old business is not going to act like a ten year old business. It’s baby steps, and it’s accepting and taking joy in each of them.
We live in a society of instant gratification. We decide we want something and we want it right now. From a taxi instead of walking through to a pizza delivery… there’s an app that can get it to you in minutes. But here’s the thing; how often have you taken that pizza delivery just because you can go from the decision to having demolished it in less than an hour, only to realise that maybe you didn’t really want it in the first place?
That, to me, is the beauty of a start-up on the slow burner. You may want to reap the benefits of all your hard work straight away, but then there wouldn’t be any time to reflect. That time is for the fine tuning, it’s for the work you need to do on yourself. And do you know what? There will be failures, that’s natural. It’s detaching your emotion from those failures and seeing them for what they really are; opportunities. Fail fast, and fail forward. In other words, recognise where something isn’t quite working, learn from it, and turn it into something that will propel you to the next level. Sometimes you just have to slow down so that you can speed up.
I think every start-up will know the feeling of being asked “how’s business?” And following it with “oh, great thanks”, flashing the Fake It Till You Make It smile and swiftly changing the subject. We all want to look like we’re an instant success, who can blame us in the age of YouTube celebrities and young people seemingly becoming “Instagram Famous” overnight. Our egos make us feel as though we have to put on a front and talk the talk. When I say ego, I don’t mean egotistical, I mean it in the sense of your internal identity. The voice inside that’s there to protect you, in an evolutionary sense, but can often get in our way. So, when you’re starting up – question everything. But question it with your heart, and with your intellect, never your ego. The ego is what can show up to pull the plug on the party early – nobody likes that guy! The ego feeds the fear, and it amps up that inner critic. Again, I believe the trick is to become so self-aware that you know instantly when it has made an appearance. You can listen to it, by all means. But don’t give it any power. When we move out of our comfort zone, the ego does tend to go a bit crazy – it’s trying to keep us in a space that feels safe; but that’s not how we grow. When you do something that’s outside of it, your comfort zone expands – and incrementally, you can do more and more. After you’ve done it, reflect – what was worse? The actual doing of it, or the fear of doing it before hand? My guess is that it’s usually the latter. So, go for it, not just in business, but in anything. If you want something you’ve never had before, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done before. The possibilities that open up once you try, and the impact you can have by bringing your knowledge and talents into the spotlight are what will inspire you to keep going!