It’s another one of my weekly blogs. I do write one every week, it just doesn’t get all the way onto the screen. I write them in my head while I’m driving the car or walking the dog. Some of them are really good, but you’ll just have to take my word for that. The problem is when I get home, there is always something else to do.
So tonight I thought I’m going to write one. Laptop on lap, beer in hand, Question Time on TV. It might be a bit of a rambler. When I wrote my book last year (I wrote a book you know, shameless plug, is called Let’s Talk About Six, and available on Amazon), there was a lot of ramble. Start in one direction, type away as it comes into your head and then out through your fingers. Sometimes the end point is a million miles from where you thought you’d end up, but at least its honest. Hopefully that’s what we’ll get tonight too.
So its coming up to six months since I started my business. Honestly, it has been so much more difficult than I anticipated. A real roller coaster ride of emotions. High as a kite one day, buzzing off a positive meeting or a potential lead, absolutely in bits the next, worried about whether this will work out at all and where the next (first) piece of work is going to come from. In fact, worried isn’t the word. Absolutely floored is a closer description, but trying my best to keep my chin up for the sake of my wife and two young kids, who still don’t really understand why daddy isn’t going to the office anymore.
I think (I know) I underestimated what was involved. I thought it was going to be easy. Thought I was going to be in demand. Why wouldn’t I be? I’m intelligent, innovative, experienced. Have had a string of good well paid jobs. It was going to be a doddle. It was going to be setting up a new and successful business, where other local businesses would benefit from my idea’s and my experience. It was going to be restoring my work life balance, spending more time with the family, while doing interesting work that I really enjoyed. It would be having the time and money to go to Liverpool’s away games in Europe. It was going to be fabulous.
The Warrington part was going to be the easy bit. I’m from Warrington, grew up here, lived away for a long time, but had been back for a few years and I knew everything about the town.
Wrong!! I now realise I knew nothing about Warrington, didn’t understand the business landscape, didn’t know the people. Its the people that are the important bit. People are so much more important than knowing the road network and any give shortcut from A to B. I have walked into rooms in the last 6 months and not known a soul. Everyone knows each other (or so it seems) and I have been the odd man out.
I’ve never been one for networking, in fact I’ve actively avoided it over the years. Walking into those rooms and talking to strangers is my worst nightmare. People probably think I am outgoing – I’m not. But I know that if I am going to succeed, I need to conquer that. And to an extent, I think I have. I’ve met so many good people over the last six months. People who have put me at ease, people who I now realise were as scared of talking to strangers as I was. I walk into rooms now and there is a familiar face – a starting point – someone to catch up with rather than introduce yourself too. What I’ve realised is that I am actually quite a sociable person.
What else didn’t I realise? I think protection that comes from working for someone else. For twenty years, I have worked for well known and well established brands. The last one, Wedgwood, was 260 years old. What I didn’t realise was the power and protection of that brand. To walk into a room and be the Marketing Director of Wedgwood carries so much weight. I thought it was me (and some of it was) but really you are in that room because of the hat you are wearing. It is like a protective hat in a way.
That hat allows you to wax lyrical about that brand, about its heritage, about its impact, about its reach. I could talk to you for hours about Wedgwood – as a man, as a product, as a brand, as a force for good. I LOVE Wedgwood. In fact, I love all the brands I have worked for
But what I didn’t realise was how naked you feel when you take that hat off. Naked and exposed. All of a sudden I cant talk about Wedgwood anymore, I have to talk about what I’m doing. And that is so difficult. I know what you’re thinking – he seems to be doing alright talking about himself now – but to talk about your skills and experience is actually really difficult. And again, I have had to push myself out of my comfort zone to do that. We can all be so self deprecating – able to spot the ‘Zone of Genius’ (shamelessly stolen phrase) in someone else, but unable to spot it, or talk about it, in ourselves.
It leads to you questioning yourself, questioning those skills. Makes you worry that once you have convinced that first client to work with you, that what you are selling doesn’t actually cut the mustard. That clients will look at you disappointed that they have put that trust in you. I’ve been worried about that.
Until you start meeting clients and doing the work and doing great work and realise they are looking at you in a really positive way because you are telling them things that they don’t know and you are adding incredible value to their business because they don’t have your skill-set – and you walk out of that meeting knowing that you have absolutely nailed it, and that you do know your stuff and this running your own business is going to be the best thing ever – and maybe you should put your day rate up and….BUMP, there’s a message that tomorrows meeting is cancelled – and WHERE THE FUCK IS THE NEXT JOB COMING FROM!!!!
So where am I up to? Down on where I thought/hoped/budgeted to be. Doing work for a couple of clients, leads beginning to come through, networking beginning to pay off, slowly but surely. Meeting new people. Understanding where I’m going wrong and fixing it. Getting better on LinkedIn (there’s a whole blog post right there for LinkedIN). Doing some volunteering work which is engaging and enjoyable. Overall, I’m getting there.
I’m getting there, but I’m not doing it on my own. I couldn’t do this without my wife. She works so hard with her own business, a really successful business that she has built over five years and while she should be enjoying the fruits of that she is making massive sacrifices and having to work extra hard to provide all the things we need as a family. Despite the short term stresses, despite me being under her feet and making a mess, we are getting there together. She is amazing. As are my two beautiful kids who inspire me to do more every day.
Bloody hell, that was a bit of a ramble wasn’t it. Not sure if it’s a proper review – certainly wouldn’t cut it from a work perspective!! But it’s honest. Maybe someone will read it and identify with it and feel better about the roller coaster ride they are on. Maybe I’ll read it in another six months and wonder what all the fuss was about.
Who knows? Have a good weekend. Cheers Chris