How to run a business and survive
I never thought I’d be doing this. Running a consultancy was never the path, the passion or the plan - in fact, the exact opposite!
But in the past 24 months I’ve won and delivered over £12million worth of business across organisations such as IKEA, the UK Foreign Office and Home Office and Surrey County Council, supported strategy on a multimillion pound product and been part of a successful hackathon that looked into helping climate change.At the same time, I’ve had a new baby to add to my toddler and enjoyed being a great partner to my amazing fiance (hopefully). It’s been hard work, but I’ve had a wonderful time doing it.
I'm not going to pretend I know how this has all happened, but some tips below have certainly helped me.
You need to understand who you are right now and what you enjoy. Otherwise, you can't be fulfilled in what you do. Try to make every situation an opportunity to learn more about yourself.
I learnt from a young age that I loved working far more than studying. Work always felt tangible and useful to me - I was surrounded by people, I was doing a thing and I felt a sense of achievement in completing something done.
(To be clear, I'm talking about the 16 year old me who worked in WH Smith so I could get enough money to support my PlayStation and football addictions!)
My job started at 6am, and involved putting the inserts into newspapers to get them ready for selling. Although it wasn’t the most complicated job in the world, the skills I learnt there help me every day.
I learnt people skills, how to behave at work, and to try different ways to get the job done (sorry if you were one of the many people who often had a Guardian supplement inside your Daily Star!). I found that I was motivated by hard work and doing something which had a result and satisfaction at the end.
I was lucky, I learnt early on that this is what I enjoyed. I’d recommend anyone to try different jobs from a young age, see what parts you like and see what parts you don't. At that stage, you're discovering your talents and your passion and how to have fun with what you do. Plus, the people you meet on the way will become some of the most important people to you in the future.
Evolve your habits
Getting good habits will change your life.
I wish I’d thought about this when I was younger. Days of scrolling through Twitter, weeks watching average boxsets, months spent hungover searching for a pizza menu… these habits were holding me back from having a purpose and leading a more fulfilling life.
Work out what adds to your life and what takes away from it, and ask yourself: what is stealing more of my time than it should? This is so important today as some companies have a business model that involves taking your attention - letting them take too much of it is detrimental for what you want to do and where you want to go.
Look at your life, understand the habits which are holding you back and visualise what your life might look like if you could replace those habits with something you love…. then do it!
Part of the reason I have time to focus on what is important - family, work, learning - is because I've stopped doing what doesn't add value to my life (sorry social media!) and I focus on what's important to me. Try it, you wont regret it!
Optimism (or actually pragmatic enthusiasm) even in the face of difficult choices is essential. I really believe it gets me through even the hardest of days with a smile on my face.
I’ve been lucky enough to work on Olympics Games, some of the best places in digital and now in Caution Your Blast, an impact driven consultancy, genuinely doing good in the world. This is all made possible by optimism, both from me and from those around me.
I don't know if I've always been optimistic or if it’s something I developed - I do remember times when I've deliberately thought to myself that I need to be cheery and happy, no matter what happens. To be honest, that’s still something I do today. It’s really easy to be negative or grumpy, especially when you're busy, or tired, or things aren't going your way. But if you take time to breathe and see a positive, your days will be happier, I promise.
Optimism inspires. It lifts your mood, as well as the mood of those around you. It makes anything possible.
Try it next time something is tough or doesn't go your way - take a deep breath, think positive, see what comes out.
Read (or listen) to books, it’s important.
A lot of my thoughts on the above have only been fully realised because I’ve recognised them from books and the journeys of other people.
I never thought I’d be the person saying this (give me junk crime fiction normally!) but a decent set of books gives you help in all sorts of situations.
My top picks include: Influence by Rober Cialdini, Ride Of A Lifetime by Robert Iger, Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck, anything by Cal Newport. Give one a go and let me know!
In conclusion, I’m really hoping all this helps someone - even if it’s just one person then it’s made a difference! If anyone out there would like any help, to share ideas or just chat things through, I'm always happy to speak to you.