It was the year 2013. Miley Cyrus dominated the charts with “Wrecking Ball” which, as I didn’t yet know at the time, was to become the perfect soundtrack for the most life-altering moments both 2013 and fate had set out ahead of me.
Table of contents:
- It was one of the hardest things I have ever done
- Your family are not your business advisors
- Managing cash flow is the most stressful thing you’ll ever do
- Nobody will love your business as much as you do
On a morning like any other, I woke up, got out of bed and jumped into the shower. As I opened the door to leave the bathroom, the vision in my right eye went completely white. Blinded in that eye I rushed to the emergency room.
That moment, it seems, was the planning stages of my full-life demolition.
The wrecking ball hit when, as it turned out, that moment was the first step in my journey towards a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.
At the time, I was at the height of my career. Working 80+ hour weeks and frankly smashing it out of the park. However, it didn’t take long for me to realise that my newfound health situation, prompted by a doctor warning me if I carried on in this way I’d be in a wheelchair, meant I need to make some serious changes in my life.
There was to be another definitive moment in 2013. It was when I decided that I was not going to leave behind a legacy defined by my illness. Instead, I was going to leave a legacy defined by what I achieved in spite of my illness.
So, I quit my job and took the leap to start my own business. Today that business, my marketing agency, Creative Little Soul, is one of three businesses I own and has 100s of clients all around the world.
That being said, in the 9 years since my wrecking ball moment, there have been many lessons, tears and moments where I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. Today I want to share those hard-learned lessons with you, in the hope that you can learn from the mistakes I have made on your own journey to defining your legacy. With that in mind, here is my list of things I wish I had known when I started my business.
1. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done
There’s no way around it. Starting and building a successful business is unbelievably challenging. Be prepared for lots of self-doubt, hard decisions, questioning your decisions and lots of failures and hard-learned lessons. Accept that failures are inevitable, and you are already one step ahead.
2. Your family are not your business advisors
Even when delivered with the best of intentions, the advice of your loved ones usually shouldn’t be held to high value. Support, advice and guidance in building your business are vital, but it’s integral that that support is coming from somebody who understands your business and your industry with depth. My advice? Find a great coach or mentor instead.
3. Managing cash flow is the most stressful thing you’ll ever do
When I quit my well paying (but toxic) full-time job I had zero savings and only a few weeks of annual leave under my belt. I was fortunate I had a website and some assets set up prior to taking the plunge, but going from a full-time paycheck to then Adhoc invoices where often work was billed at the completion of a project was stressful.
I was forced to look at better systems for processing payments, billing a retainer or obtaining a deposit and I also had to take out some small business loans from family and lenders like Prospa who were willing to support and help small businesses.
Even now during the pandemic I had to juggle funds again, it forced me to be innovative in developing new products and services to ensure bread was kept on the table and I could afford to keep my staff on without tapping into job keeper or seeker. But know you’re not alone and the fear you’ll live on cereal forever is one you’ll never truly get rid of, learn to love it for dinner and do be cautious with your spending.
4. Nobody will love your business as much as you do
Sounds obvious, but it goes deeper than you think. Your business is your baby. Blood, sweat and tears don’t even cover it. The problem is, your staff, your friends, family or anyone else for that matter will not have the same attachment you do.
This is going to be frustrating at times, they will lack the sense of urgency you have. It is super important you accept this or you’re going to end up pulling your hair out!
Also, remember to have some boundaries in place so you are taking time out for family and personal relationships too, and don’t underestimate the importance of self-care. If you as the captain come crashing down, who’ll be there to run the ship? If you are burnt out, you’re really no good to anyone. Trust me, I’ve been there!
Despite it all though, the sleepless nights, the “this is impossible” days, the uphill battles and downward spirals, having a chronic illness and a disability, starting my business was the best decision I ever made.
The freedom, flexibility, and no bullshit from being bossed around by somebody else combined with seeing those I serve benefit from me putting in 110% is so rewarding. Couple that with the level of self-respect and the awareness of what I was truly capable of achieving and it’s easy to see why starting and continuing in business is and always will be a no brainer!
Article written by Chrissy Symeonakis, Founder & Managing Director of Creative Little Soul