When the going gets tough, the tough gets going
Have you ever been so angry about something, you’ve had to channel it into something else in order to move on? Most people opt to go shopping or have a bottle of wine, but I decided to set up another business…as you do.
I think us Insta lot make the setting up a business malarkey look easy. But does anyone ever unravel their story and talk about the moments of self doubt, frustration when you need and want something done and don’t have the money, or watching YouTube tutorials and still none the wiser, or calling in favours from anyone and everyone.
So I wanted to put my hands up and say this was me and talk about what happened behind the scenes of The Parenting Chapter.
If you wrote a list of all of the things you wouldn’t want to happen to you when you have a baby and try to set up a new business, I no doubt experienced all of them. It reminded me of that late pregnancy feeling when things start to go wrong with your body and you just want a break.
I kept going because of resilience and this was evident in those moments when I felt like the world was against me and when I started thinking ‘oh sod it, I might just give up now.’ Passion can wear thin when you can’t see the finish line and recognising that you’ve felt fed up/bored/frustrated with this before, but got through it, keeps you going.
So lets talk about how you get through those tough ‘I can’t do this anymore moments’.
You’ve got minimal money to invest
So I work with a lot of start up businesses and some have lots of money to spend and others come to me saying: ‘I’ve got some money but I’m not sure what I need to spend it on’. And the word need is key. My top tips for money-related issues are:
- Do NOT shove things onto a credit card. And try not to max one out. If the business takes a while to scale in year one and you’re having to make big repayments, there could be trouble ahead.
- Trade offs. I do this a LOT. I assess my skillset - professional and personal - and then target people who I can help and vice versa. Suggest a trade off and be really upfront about what you can do. And let them come back with their equivalent way of thanking you (don’t suggest it unless asked, otherwise you look too pre-meditated)
- Sweating your investment. So many people ask me to devise a campaign for them and then I deliver it and tell them how to maximise it, and they do precisely nothing. View your investment - whether it’s a web developer, film editor or designer, and what they do, as an opportunity to deliver what you want and more. And the more part is about asking for that extra favour or a final tweak or, their advice on how best to deliver something to your target audience. If you don’t ask you don’t get, so always ask for more. And operate by the approach of ‘ask for forgiveness not permission’. What’s the worst that could happen - they say no. You move on.
You’re exhausted when you wake up and exhausted when the kids go to bed. So when can I work on this business?
- Wouldn’t it be lovely if we still used the phrase: ‘yeah, I had a bit of time to kill so I went and grabbed a coffee’. Er, no chance. Remember there are two types of energy - physical and mental. Often my mental energy runs out first and my body pushes me. But this isn’t ideal. My first tip would be to try and get the mind and body energy levels in sync. Don’t overthink things and take the time to plan, simplify and be gentle on yourself if you have a ‘got nothing done day’
- I’m at my best straight after dinner and for 2 hours usually. Try giving yourself child time, dinner time, work time and then wind down time just before bed. Don’t deny yourself things to get work done and seriously, don’t underestimate the power of food and hydration. It’s so boring when someone says that, but if i skip meals, two hours later i’m short and my brain flits from one thing to another. And you know what, if its leftover bits of the kid’s breakfast, thats better than nothing.
Your partner doesn’t get it
- I think we expect our partners to support us wholeheartedly in everything we do, but we have to remember that in our dreams, we’ve already made the amazing product we’ve been visualising and we’re selling 1000s of them, but are our partners in our heads? No. And if they’re a black and white kinda person, they might only give you the praise when you’ve got money coming in. Which is hard to stomach, but you have to look at them as a person and not a partner when it comes to business.
- Honesty is key, as is a partner who gets and agrees to the fact you might need to invest - if only £50, money that you might not get back. Write a one page business plan (and keep it to one page please!) and present it to your partner. And let them question you. If you’re thinking no chance of this happening Lauren, put yourself in their shoes and ask them to help you out by taking on a supporting role in the business:
- Do they love problem solving? Get them to help you plan how you will take your idea to market
- Do they love crunching numbers? Get them to start working on figures and targets
You’re fixated on the competitors
Lets rephrase this to vulnerability instead of competition. Competition is healthy and proves you’ve got a viable idea. People want choice as well.
But really, competition makes us feel vulnerable and scared, and reminds us of that awful time when the popular boy or girl at school had something that we wanted and we felt inadequate because we didn’t have it. Its ok to feel vulnerable. Its ok to obsess. But its not ok to assume you’ve not got a good idea because you’ve got less followers or your images aren’t as polished. Check the facts. Do you know their business inside out? No. Do you believe that every business is wonderful and successful all day every day? No. Do you believe that you’ve done as much as you possibly can right now to build and market your business? Yes (hopefully) and if not, skill yourself up!
Your little demon is playing games telling you that you can’t do this
Honestly, this demon/monkey that sits on your shoulder is a tw*t. It can take you from a positive place to a negative place in a matter of minutes and ruin an entire day. It can make you snappy and also dependant on social media, as you constantly check for likes, new followers or sales. And then when you don’t get any, you talk to that demon and say “yeah, you’re right, take me to the dark place”. The place where you can’t do what you want to do, you consider giving up, or regress back to Uni days and wished you had paid more attention or got better grades.
What really really winds me up, is those who tell you to silence those negative feelings. It might work for a fleeting moment, but they come back. And then you decide you’re just a negative person. No, you’re normal. Life is up and down and reading lots of self help books and listening to gurus who tell you to silence those negative feelings don’t help. In a book called The Happiness Trap, the author says that that in today’s society, we’re told to silence the negative in order to feel happy. But actually, the solution ends up becoming part of the problem. The solution is to silence our negative emotions, but it actually becomes part of the problem as it sets us up for what we think is failure.
In a nutshell, in year 1 of business, it might seem like no bugger supports you. You will feel like giving up, because a lack of, or slow period on the sales front makes you doubt yourself. But this is normal. Other people might be afraid to celebrate in case it doesn’t work out and they look like they lied to you. So stop seeking reassurance from those close to you and instead go to events where there are investors you can quiz, or find yourself a mentor by looking at LinkedIn and adding visionary people on there. Most will be flattered you asked.
The mental health nag
Setting up a business with a mental health condition is like asking someone to sit in a washing machine whilst diligently reading a book. It can be both a driving force and a crippling presence that feels like it has an agenda and that’s usually to ruin your day/week/life.
Based on the fact my anxiety has been kicking around for some time, I can offer you these three rules:
- Beware of over delivery. The ‘I can do everything mode’. Nobody will ever tell you to stop and someone who is anxious will just keep going and going and become manic. Stop when you realise you’re doing more than the average person. And remember that you’re probably at the finish line and everyone else is at the starting line, so you’ve got the time to pause.
- Pause and reflect. Mental health plays tricks and it can make you doubt every little decision. Sometimes to the point where you make no decisions. And then you’re in a limbo not knowing how to move forward. Pause and reflect. And do it properly. Take yourself to my favourite ever motivational space - the walkway between Charing Cross Station and Underground and be inspired by poster after poster and in between this, go into a dreamlike state where you envisage your own product on a poster. What feeling would you get reading it? What images would you use? Dream, dream and dream and this should get you back to a point of focus.
- Don’t be a superhuman. You will fudge up. You will select crap people to help you do things. You will lose money. You will lie awake at night and feel like you can’t breath. And none of this is good, but it’s all part of the journey when you suffer with mental health blips. So long as you're not slipping into unhealthy ways of coping or avoiding, then accept it won’t be easy and you have a slight handicap with your mental health, but also an amazing fact checker within. People with mental health issues often worry way more about the stuff others don’t and work to a higher standard than most (but they don’t see it this way). Remember that mental health may be a weakness to you, but one day it will be your strength because of what you’ve learnt and done along the journey to a more peaceful place.
So the final message here is that if 1-6 becomes overwhelming, it doesn’t have to spell the end of the business. Take that break - a week, a month even. Social media silence goes unnoticed unless you’re a mega celeb and even then, you can announce a break and take it.
Don’t be alone either. Try to have a friend who gets it, or better still, goes into business with you!