What three years in business has taught me

Today is an important one for me, personally and professionally.  Three years ago Time Saving Heroes officially came in to being, after rattling around in my head for a few months.  Admittedly nothing changed, really; I was still doing exactly the same work, in the same place and with the same clients – I was just doing it under an official name.

Although it was a Sunday, I remember sitting at our kitchen table, finalising my five year plan.  As I look back I’m amazed how far I’ve come, and what lessons I’ve learnt along the way.

# 1 – Failure is an opportunity

I’d be lying if I said everything had gone to plan over the last three years, and I hadn’t put a foot wrong.  Actually, if we’re going to be completely honest about this, I’ve made some monumental cock ups along the way.

The good thing though about wandering off the path is that it doesn’t necessarily mean you are lost.  Such events can provide you with an enormous opportunity to learn – what to do, and most certainly what not to do.

The end of 2015 was challenging, for many reasons, but I have to admit everything I went through in those last few months have made me far more sure-footed as I move forward.  It was hard at the time, but looking back, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

# 2 – Don’t listen to every piece of advice

When I started TSH I hadn’t done any networking, so when I got thrown in to this world of other businesses, expos and 121’s I felt like a scared little newbie.  To be fair, I was.  Looking around the room at my peers I was in awe of their knowledge and experience, and was convinced they all had their shit together and were so much better than me.

As a result I listened, and took every bit of advice that was offered in those first few months.  I mean, they knew what they were talking about.  They had it all sussed, and I’d be an idiot not to listen to their pearls of wisdom.

James Altucher once said “Anyone who gives actual advice is a fraud. We’re all just trying to understand the planet from our own tiny perspectives” and it’s so true.  Now while I listen to what people say and suggest, I don’t follow it blindly. I accept it for what it is – just their opinion and viewpoint.  They might be right, but it doesn’t mean what they are saying is right for me.

After three years I have learnt to make that all important distinction, and to trust my gut when it comes to my business.

# 3 – Forget the “rules”

Many people work a certain way because that’s the way they’ve always worked.  That’s fine for them, but I don’t want to live that way.  I started this business in my kitchen, and three years later, here I sit again, surrounded by my dogs and listening to the sound of my children laughing.

I tried the serviced office, I tried the rented space, and yet I came back home.  I was advised, by many, that it would be more professional to have a dedicated work space; that I’d be taken more seriously, that I’d earn more money, if I stepped away from the kitchen table.  Bollocks.

The reality is my professionalism comes from me, not my location.  I am no better writing in an office than I am sitting on my bed.  The words are the same, it’s only the environment that’s different, and as I don’t write with clients present, what does it matter where I do it?  Even when I had an office I would meet clients at their place of work, or in a coffee shop.  I still do that now.  Nothing has changed. Except I am now £600pm better off.

Equally, three months ago I embraced a new approach to my emails.  I have an auto-responder that lets people know I check my emails three times a day, and will respond as soon as possible at those specified times.  If you need me before that, phone me.

Some people have taken the utter piss out of me, and that’s fine.  However, I am now not tied to my inbox, people’s expectations are managed and I am generally far more efficient.  Laugh all you like, but my inbox, my rules.

# 4 – My dreams are mine

I learnt the hard way that when you tell anyone and everyone your dreams, they get battered and bashed up along the way.  People will always have an opinion, and whilst some people will be on hand to offer support and guidance, share their stories or just lend a sympathetic ear, other people will not.

I’ve had people tell me I can’t, that it won’t work or that it will cost too much – all comments that are so negative they make you want to just say “OK, I won’t bother”.  I’ve also had people take my ideas, my dreams, my plans and ambitions and steal them; screwing me over in the process.

The truth is you don’t have to share your dreams with anyone.  Now I work quietly towards mine, and when I get there, I will shout about my arrival from the roof tops.  My nearest and dearest know where I’m heading, and enjoy the journey with me; no one else needs to.

# 5 – It’s better to do something rather than nothing

It’s far too easy to overthink things when you run your own business.  Should you share that post?  Should you write that blog?  How will people react to the use of the word “bollocks”? How much should you quote for that job, what can the client afford?  The problem with thinking is that it has this nasty tendency to get in the bloody way of doing.

You can waste hours, days or even months pushing thoughts around whilst you try to find the perfect path, by which time you have lost out.  The reality is that until you do something you’re not going to know 100% whether it’s the right thing or not.

My advice? Trust your gut, move and hope for the best.

But, that’s just my view, from my own tiny perspective.

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