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So after a few years of planning, research, development, working out how to run a business ‘if it ever gets that far’, changes to plans, long debates with everyone and anyone about your idea and when you think you’re almost there (a business plan is crafted) you then have to actually make the thing.
This journey is so much harder than anyone will tell you. It’s a bit like an operation. People who have been through it tell you all about it, but they forget how painful it was or how long it really took them to recover. Starting your own business isn’t dissimilar.
A universal ‘how to guide’ isn’t available as every business is different. You think people will be there to guide you, and to be fair I’ve met some great people already who have been instrumental to getting us to where we are (I’ll come back to this point), but along this bumpy journey there are plenty who like to play doctors, and tell you how and what you should do, but let’s just say they would make awful patients!
Getting In The Buff from a concept to a reality and physical product took a lot of trust, self belief, the ability to listen to and decipher ‘off the hip’ advice, and bucket loads of resilience, patience and honesty.
We, like so many others, thought we could be launched by a certain date, but it was 18 months later that we were actually ready to launch. The learning here, and something many people told us, was that the process can’t be rushed – passion and impatience take over and sometimes cloud your vision. But a shot of reality soon set in after my last company folded (I was doing In The Buff after hours) and some unsavoury owners with a ‘colourful past’ did the dirty on the entire business and left all the staff without a job, pay or pension. That meant I had no money coming in and my safety blanket was well and truly ripped away. At the same time, this was also a key turning point towards starting up our own business. Its moments like this that call your hand. I’d said for many years I wanted to do my own thing, but you need that thing to be awesome, for it to answer a consumer need that’s not currently being fulfilled, and to have the potential to go large scale. I had plenty of ideas that have been shelved in the past, but the concept of In The Buff was sold to me by my business partner Henry and I just knew there and then this is what I was going to do. So much so that after several management discussions one of our strategic moves was for me to go into this full-time (still unpaid) to give it the focus and passion it required; I do not believe a successful business can get to market and succeed without 100% dedication. You get out what you put in.
I mentioned earlier about some great people. I have had a distinguished career with heaps of experience in brand marketing, product development and sales – surely that ticks most boxes – but Start-up City is a totally different world to Corporate Kingdom. I have trusted key people early on in this journey to help build our brand with us (Southpaw Communications), develop and challenge our strategy and help keep our social media to cash flow all in ‘ship shape’ order (you know who you are). Sharing these duties also meant I have people that understand/buy in to what I am doing and therefore hold me accountable for decisions and actions taken. It also helps that I can’t see past my ‘blind spots’, others might, as there is just so much going on at the same time that you are having to juggle. This comes back to the point of being honest. If you can’t be honest then do not bother starting up your own business.
Final thought, its damn lonely, especially when you’re an extrovert! You’re not in a position to afford working in a proper office with other people so you run the business from home (a plus side is some costs being partly off set against business for bills), but often you don’t have anyone to talk to/bounce ideas off as the people you’re partnering with spend their working hours at their primary jobs. You often feel very cut off, having to organise meetings at lunchtimes or post-kids’ bedtimes.
I know some people reading this would say get over yourself, you try commuting x hours a day or not seeing your family all week. I’ve done this I hear you, but this is different. When you have all the thoughts one does about their role normally, and you have to multiply that at least five times, seven days a week due to all the plates you’re spinning, it totally engulfs you. You have to be aware of this and try to get out regularly from your work cave, and build a close network whereby you can rant, share thoughts, learn from others and keep your mind fresh. Exercise is also a no brainer which helps enormously.
Would I change things? Absolutely not! My brother said a few months back that one of the biggest incentives in the early days is surely that you don’t want to go back to what you did (Corporate City) He’s definitely talking sense!
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