6 hard lessons we have learnt
We have decided to put ourselves upfront and centre this week to share with you our own personal experience of running a business and the toughest lessons we have learnt so far.
We find that it’s articles like this that have been the most beneficial to us. We hope you find something in here that you can apply to your business and you don’t just feel like you are reading a 13 year olds diary entry! Here are the 6 hard lessons we have learnt so far - Enjoy!
Not taking a break is the worst thing you can do for your business (and your sanity)
This has probably been our hardest lesson so far; a couple of months ago we were working unbelievable hours, 7 days a week. We were glued to our laptops and I got into a terrible habit of waking up in the middle of the night to check my emails (not my finest hour!).
I think when you start to see results within your business you can easily run yourself into the ground; after a hard couple of months we were exhausted, unwell and stressed. We always said that our relationship would come first and our business second, but before we knew it the business was number one and we had lost ourselves along the way. We decided that for the good of our happiness, creativity and relationship it was time to get our weekends back to reconnect, get inspired and most importantly, rest.
The solution: we now work 3 days a week from 6am - 7pm, 2 days we start at 7am - 6pm and the other two days we are free to do whatever we feel like, yaaaaay! This means we still work 55 hours a week (each) completing client work and continuing to develop our business, and still have the time we need in order to take a break and relax. Recently we have started to take the weekend off Instagram and only share whatever we have been up to on the Monday morning. Having a break from the whirlwind that is social this regularly has been invaluable to our mental health and we would recommend it to anybody!
2. There will always be days where you want to quit
This was one we never thought I would feel. After working solidly to get our business off the ground, I never thought I would see it as anything other than a dream come true - we were wrong. We had no idea of the amount of sacrifice starting a business would take. There are times when it pushes you to the limit and all you want to do is throw your hands up into the air, ugly cry and shout “I quit!”.
Some days really didn’t go our way, especially at first, think of it like disappointment confetti haha, no really, it was tough! Even yesterday, I was on the phone to James - when we work apart we usually get more stressed and take on an unreasonable mood. In this instance, he was mr “I’m going to panic about everything” and I was miss “this is so crap!” (thank god we are reunited again).
Our solution: You will always love your children, but you don’t always have to like them, B&F is our child so the same rules apply. Understanding that thinking like this isn’t a negative thing at all - I used to feel so guilty and ungrateful whenever I used to feel like this, but now I try to think of it as just a down to the many ups we have. The thing is, it never lasts long - usually it only happens when something goes wrong and our fight or flight kicks in. Do we ever see ourselves quitting? Absolutely not, this business is everything to us.
3. change your mind set
When we first started we thought that we would be able to keep our social life and build the business up in a very cruisy manner... after we floated down from our cloud, we started to realise how impossible that was, it’s all about changing your mindset and knowing that this had to become our everything in order for it to work.
The solution: We soon accepted that we had to sacrifice much of our social life to be able to get up and make the most of the time we had. As we were both still working in full time jobs for the first year of B&F, it was important to make the most of our weekends which meant, 95% of our free time was taken up with working and we had to accept that.
3. Get comfortable with failing
AHEM - there are two things that I have always struggled with and that’s criticism and failing. Starting B&F has made my two little demons have no choice but to get accustomed with each other, sometimes they even come together as a nice little cocktail.
A few months ago we got dropped by a client, they said they were disappointed with the concept sketches (criticism) and they told us that they didn’t want to proceed ultimately ending our working relationship (fail)...that was not a good day!
Months later, in all honesty we probably still think about it at least a few times a week, usually when we’re waiting for client feedback. The thought of it happening again fills me with dread, and even though this was the first time it has ever happened I have to get comfortable that it probably won’t be the last. If we are going to be in business for the next 40 years, the chances are pretty high!
The solution: realising that it’s not our fault. These things are bound to happen and you can’t please everybody. Maybe we could have done a better job, maybe they were being unrealistic with their expectations or maybe they found somebody else and didn’t know how to tell us. Whatever it was, we don’t have any control over it and we need to get used to failing because growth comes from failing, it will help us to improve, get better and progress. We need to embrace it!
5. Imposter syndrome
Yep, this one is a little bugger and I feel like it gets worse as you get older. I remember talking myself into jobs I was completely under-qualified for. Once I even got a job as a photography practitioner before I even knew what an SLR was and ended up running the whole workshop calling it a Dixon instead of a Nikon… thankfully it was a group of 13 year olds and nobody corrected me, but the very thought still makes me cringe and my dad cry laughing. God bless 20 year old Nicole - fake it till you make it.
Well, I can safely say I’m not faking it now (well, maybe with the finance side) but it’s as if my Dixon days are coming back to haunt us. With such responsibility there comes lots of doubt and worry and questions. We often feel overwhelmed and under-qualified to run a business.
The solution: always remember, nobody knows what they are doing! Everybody has this fear and it’s usually because you care so much and you don’t want to let the person/customer down. Embrace it, it’s one of your best assets to keep grounded and ensures you don’t get all “I run a business and I’m amazing!”.
6. You can’t do everything yourself
This has been a very difficult one for us swallow. We are at that point where we are doing everything ourselves and it’s just about manageable, but we are aware that we need support in other ways such as business coaching and possibly help with social consulting; we have held back for a while on these two things because we feel like we can do them ourselves and with all the YouTube and online tutorials out there we’ll be able to learn and save money, but now we know we have hit the point where we need to learn faster and save time on trying to figure it out ourselves, we need to accept help and guidance.
The solution: we have realised if we are going to continue to grow as a business, we need to invest in professional 1:1 coaching and support. We have just made our biggest investment in the business so far - We have signed up to ‘The Owners Collective’ mentoring program. It is a 4 month investment where we will be supported by the amazing Pru Chapman. We know that opening our business up to help and support is ultimately making us stronger, not weaker and if we want to eventually expand, we need to get better at letting people help to look after and grow our baby!
“Behind every successful person, there’s a lot of unsuccessful years.”
This is just 6 of the many many lessons we have learnt in the past 2 years and I’m sure in another couple of months we will have many more to add, but we hope by sharing some of these lessons, you can feel assured that often behind the aesthetically pleasing content are two real humans. I hope it helps you where ever you are in your business journey.
Notes to take away
Don’t be afraid of failing, it’s the quickest way to learn and grow.
Don’t let having a business rule your life. Always make sure once the work is done you have time for yourself.
Don’t let feeling underqualified stop you, if you work hard and do your best, you’re already half way there.
Accept that you need help in order to grow your business, and when you have the money to invest… invest!
You won’t always like certain aspects of your business and that’s ok, don’t feel guilty, you are still meant to do this.