Sometimes business is tough… really tough… and running a business on your own can feel like the loneliest place on earth. Don’t get me wrong, I have the most incredible support network; not just my amazing team here but family, fiancé and supportive friends. But when the buck stops with you and you alone, it’s hard for other people to truly understand how difficult it is.
Most people say that year three is a milestone, which gives you a false sense of security that surviving those initial 1,095 days means you’re destined for an easy life. Anyone else who owns a business will absolutely hear me when I say that isn’t the case.
Leading up to EAST VILLAGE.’s sixth birthday (last month), 2019 has been a rollercoaster of a year; challenge after challenge, which on the most part I have seen as an opportunity to grow and learn. Sometimes, however, another client disappearing without paying or another person letting you down, gets to you. I’m a pretty positive person – very glass-half-full – but 2019 has tested me to my limits. Thankfully, I think (she says) I have come out the other side and I’m looking ahead to a less dramatic 2020.
(Don’t worry, guys, this will get more upbeat… bear with me!)
I’m quite late to the podcast party; I got into The Guilty Feminist for a while and then got so far behind that I’ve never caught up. I did manage to binge listen to Mary Portas’ Work Like A Woman after seeing her speak at ITG Live, and it really inspired me; not to think differently, because it just reaffirmed everything that I already thought, but inspired me to find more time to think, reflect, and then promote the things I believe in. At the end of the Work Like A Woman series, I wanted to find something new to listen to in the car; as much as I love having a Kisstory throwback on my way to and from work, I’m not sure singing Monsta Boy’s “Sorry” twice a day is going to benefit me or EAST VILLAGE. particularly.
I went to scroll through some podcasts and saw a familiar face… Steve Bartlett, the CEO of Social Chain Group. I’ve followed him on social for a few years; ever since being introduced to him when one of our past clients, Hollywood Monster, hosted a retail thought leadership event and he featured as a guest speaker. Back then, I just knew he was one of these incredibly young, incredibly successful entrepreneurs who was destined for worldwide fame and an enviable bank balance. Beyond his business acumen and ability to spot trends, though, I was mostly taken aback by the fact that I’d never heard anyone able to articulate things and deliver them in the way he could, so I thought I’d give ‘The Diary of a CEO’ a listen. Little did I know it would change my life…
Ok, I’m being very dramatic there, but it really was the best decision I’ve made in a long time.
Twenty episodes in and I’ve laughed, cried, and been introduced to some very cool business owners that I probably otherwise wouldn’t have heard of. This morning’s was Deliciously Ella, who I didn’t know too much about and now I have the biggest girl crush on; a few days ago was Chris ‘Drama’ Pfaff, who is now a complete inspiration and someone who I hope to replicate the positivity of.
There’s no doubting that Steve Bartlett is an incredible businessman and thought leader; at just 27 years old he’s at the helm of a business that employs over 700 people, across six countries, with a collective reach of 200 million millennials. Impressive. He’s even turned his hand to charity and giving back to the community.
His impressive CV is one thing, but the piece of content he’s created with ‘The Diary of a CEO’ is something else. Often recorded in the middle of the night, whilst he’s sitting in the dark in his underwear (relevant for anyone who thinks he’s a bit of a looker), he looks back on his week’s diary and the notes, thoughts, and feelings he’s scribbled down. He goes through each one with a real honesty that you wouldn’t expect from someone at his level of success.
For me, though, it was just how much everything resonated with me. I’ve always been a “crack on with it” kind of girl and I set up EAST VILLAGE. with minimal advice, I guess; I asked some people for coffees in the initial stages, but any advice I’ve received along the way has been luck, rather than me actively seeking it out. The one thing this past year has taught me is the importance of asking for help and opening up… it’s that change in me (the girl who isn’t afraid to let people know things are tough) that, I genuinely think, has saved me from making this year even tougher by bottling everything up. I’m pretty lucky in terms of my mental health and resilience but we all have to help ourselves by opting for self-care every now and then.
Anyway, I digress… back to Steve Bartlett…
I have sat in my car and cried listening to him interview Mark Stringer from ahoy; so much of what they talked about – worrying about paying the bills, people letting you down, and generally feeling a bit s**t at times – resonated with me. I cried at suddenly not feeling alone, but also feeling so angry that people let Mark down in the way they did. It’s completely mad because I don’t know him, but I understand that hard work and human nature don’t always go hand in hand. On the flipside, I listened to Sacha Lord talk about his party days and recap on the stress of ‘event day’, laughing my way through it. Pretty much all of the emotions have come out, and you know what? It has been the most therapeutic part of 2019.
I could go on about the podcast forever – I must refer to it at least three times a day – but I’ll save you all from that and, instead, share what it has taught me so far.
If you run a business, you’re not alone.
Unfortunately, the lead up to payday, the worry about handling a HR situation, and the need to be everywhere at once will continue being your problem as a business owner. But, if like me, you are the only director/shareholder, it doesn’t mean you’re fully alone. Go and talk to people in the same boat because we all go through the same highs and lows… a coffee with a fellow entrepreneur might just be the therapy you need.
You have to stop chasing ‘pleasure’.
We all start our adult lives wanting certain things – usually centred around lots of money, a great car, and a chance to see the world. Whether or not you get these things is irrelevant in the long run, because you’re chasing ‘pleasure’ not ‘happiness’. This mentality means you’re stuck in a cycle and nothing will ever be enough, so concentrate on the real things that will make you happy.
Be selfish… and be ok with it.
I’m addicted to work – it’s my hobby – and I can’t help but take too much on, so working late and having to miss nights out has always been a reality since setting up EAST VILLAGE. However, this year’s challenges have meant that, at times, I’ve been a rubbish daughter, friend and girlfriend and whilst that’s not ok, I do sleep at night knowing that it was a necessity to make sure that I kept on the right track. Now that things are calmer, I can make up for the months when I didn’t text people back or make the effort to see them; true friends will understand and, actually, you can’t beat yourself up for wanting to build a great life for yourself.
Focus is everything.
I guess this is linked to everything, especially the point above, but focus is the way to success. Know what you’re building and striving for, and try to stay focused. There are so many great ideas that come into my head and business opportunities that present themselves, but I want EAST VILLAGE. (and myself) to be known for delivering things well so learning to say no and let things pass you by can, sometimes, be the best thing to do. On the flipside, this idea of focus has given me a new thirst for life and I’ve got some epic ideas!
Life is all about how you respond, not react.
Life will forever throw things at you and I’m always conscious that it’s your reaction to it that can make all the difference. Actually, what listening to the podcast taught me is that it’s about “responding” rather than “reacting”. Be measured… take time to think about how something makes you feel, and often, it can really change the outcome.
So, there it is… one little podcast can change things completely. Taking time out to listen to it has reminded me why I love what I do and change my outlook on seeking help and advice. Watch this space…