It's been 5 years since I started my business and the journey has not always been easy. In this blog post, I will share some of the lessons that I have learned over the past five years to give you an insight into what it is like being in business for so long.
Growing up, I was drawn to starting my own business. Both of my parents had their own business at one stage, and it was always something that I wanted to do.
It's safe to say reflecting on the last five years, it has been anything but smooth sailing.
In this article and the supporting video, I wanted to share what I've learned from 5 years in business which have shaped me both as a business owner and as a person.
Lesson # 1 - Everything Works on Paper
One of the first lessons I've learned in the last 5 years in business is that just because I was a good Financial Adviser didn’t mean I’d be any good at being in business.
I'm sure you have heard the Mike Tyson quote "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face" and he was exactly right.
When I started my first business, the plan on paper looked to be a good one and it had been well researched but the reality is that you need to keep adapting and changing your strategy as an entrepreneur in order for things to work out.
This has not always been easy because there are times when what needs to happen is counter-intuitive or goes against everything you've ever done before so there will inevitably be moments of doubt.
Some people have told me they would never do this type of thing themselves which may make sense but being able to step outside yourself can take some getting used to - at least initially!
One of the major events that happen relatively early which threw me a bit was having a massive falling out with my business partner and friend at the time which took a pretty big toll on me both personally and professionally.
This was not something I had written into my "on-paper" plans.
There have been constant changes to the legislation over the years which is just part of our industry, and more recently, COVID.
Lesson #2 - Everything Starts With Me
This is by no means a vanity statement, quite the opposite.
For most of my time as an adviser, I had difficulty maintaining consistency. This was in everything from the effort I put into the job to how consistent my team members were along with me.
I was always blaming everyone else and I thought it was just that people couldn't keep up with the pace I was working.
After another working relationship with one of my teams ended, I decided to reflect on the fact that there was one common denominator in all of these failed teams and that this was me.
I had to make changes and I realized that I couldn't do it all on my own so I sought out a business coach who helped me establish an operating pattern for the business.
This has been a long journey but since doing this the difference has been night and day with zero staff turnover.
Lesson #3 - The Importance of Structure
It wasn't until I had started the business that I understood how much structure being an employee provided me.
Having an office to go to, a team that expected and relied upon me, normal working hours gave me an everyday structure that was completely different from a self-employed person.
Looking back on the things I've learned in the last 5 years that have changed me as a business owner and in my life is build a new structure and routine that works for me.
This was something that I truly struggled with during the early days when I started the company.
Lesson #4 - Find Time to Think & Experiment:
The fourth lesson I have learned is to find time, to think, and to experiment a number of years ago, I started putting a block of time in my diary.
That was just purely for thinking time.
I heard this in an interview or read it in a book, but I can't remember the source. It was just 20 minutes a day that I set aside to think about problems with no distractions.
During the past five years, I have tried a few other things outside of my regular day job. For example, I created a golf podcast with a mate and then later launched a chatbot to collect data from listeners signing up for some of the free tools we had developed.
This experimental marketing lead to the creation of the insurance needs quiz that I built using the same chatbot tool and is now the biggest source of new business leads for me.
When I get a chance to step back from my normal responsibilities, I start coming up with better and more innovative solutions.
As I was creating the core values for our business, one of them is that we make mistakes only once.
What makes this important to me is my passion for making things better and trying new approaches. I know that this will mean some moments where we might fail, but it'll make the successes so much more meaningful.
My belief is that if we correct these mistakes, as we go, this leads to growth. And I think this is somewhere that we've had good success in over the journey.
Lesson #5 - The Power of Process:
The last lesson that I have learned is the power of process. It might feel a bit strange coming from someone like me who used to be notorious for avoiding every barrier and roadblock in my way.
One of the things I consider to this day is that when I started my business, I wasn't consistent.
I had some good months and then some bad ones; it really was all over the place.
Now, with the systems we've built and the structure we've developed, I'm far more consistent. It would be safe to say that I've turned into a process nerd.
I am happy that I have successfully mapped out everything from start to finish, and we have even recorded over 200 individual processes on how different aspects of the business operate.
This has led to us being really efficient and consistent in the way that we deliver things to you.
It's helpful when new team members come on board. I can share the approach that we have always taken so that newcomers are on-boarded immediately and know how things work.
It's really easy to add further tasks to their list as they start to get used to the ones that they already have and build out their roles slowly.
One piece of advice that I would give myself is not to take on every task as my responsibility, but to let others do their part too.
Given we have a fully remote team and outsource different roles within the business these processes are critical for us to be able to function every day.
My first 5 years of running a business have been both challenging and rewarding.
There are so many things I’ve learned, but the above 5 lessons are the key takeaways I have had given some time to reflect on this period of time.
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