Hitting our first year was a real milestone. We started out gung-ho, inevitably hit some roadblocks, rode the ups-and-downs, and kept peddling as fast as we could to keep the momentum moving forward. But I think it’s really important to reflect and look at what we have achieved in the last 12 months and talk about some of the lessons I will take away.
Lesson #1: Just Go For It
There is never an ideal time to start a business. You just have to take the leap and go all in. Rina and I both started our businesses independently in 2017, after deciding the corporate world was no longer for us. We had competed for many years, but never met. I started my business because I felt I had a lot to contribute to the world and wanted to do things on my own terms. My mum has always described me from childhood as “Little Miss Independent” and throughout my whole career, the voice in the back of my mind was always telling me it was something I’d regret. I had watched my dad face unemployment in the mid-90s (in his 40s) and create something out of nothing (a business he is still running at the age of 70). I was about to hit a milestone birthday myself and it really became a now or never situation.
If it is something you are considering, my humble advice would be get on-board knowing you’ll frequently feel unclear and uncertain and that is perfectly acceptable. It’s really the norm. But really, what is stopping you?
Lesson #2: Get Visible
So day one, I’d quit the buzzing day job. I’d had to hand back the phone I’d had for years (and the number) because it belonged to my old employer. Like the first day of school, I’d bought myself some folders, a printer, a calculator and an leather office chair because I thought it would make me feel like in the mood. I set up a little office space at home. But now what? The phone didn’t ring and no-one knew how to reach me. My two pooches stared at me wondering why I was at home in the middle of the day? Really, I had no idea how to do anything or even where to start. The list seemed endless. After years in a corporate when everything was done for me, I was like a fish out of water. How do I set up my e-mail? How do I build a website? I was no longer going to be reliant on a brand, I was totally alone. Who would care?
So logically, I decided to just start. Something. Anything. Put one foot in front of the other. A client of mine was between jobs, so we met for a coffee. We shared the stories, we laughed about the future. I made a couple of tentative calls to people I knew really well and suddenly Howard (a great client of mine) called me asking if I could help him find a temp? I will forever be grateful to him. Suddenly you see you do have a business and that there is a place for all of us. Yes, it is a highly competitive market and some people thought I was mad, but people want to deal with me and Rina because we are who we are and we love that!
Lesson #3: Buddy-Up (A.K.A. Best Decision Ever Made)
About four months into the new business venture, things started to get tricky. My big birthday had arrived (let’s say it was my 30th), me and my partner were heading away to Coconut Island for a week (just off mainland Phuket, Thailand) and there was lots on the go. I spent most of the trip fielding calls, prepping candidates for interview and taking feedback. One candidate even got a job offer. Here I was, living the dream, taking phone calls sitting at the side of the pool, but the thought occurred to me, how can I do this alone? Luckily for me, good fortune was on my side, and within a couple of months my (now) business partner, Rina, had been in touch. She too had experienced the joys of being solo, after having a slightly less-sunny experience trying to run her business single-handedly whilst visiting her family in the UK. The time difference was not so kind for her and she was dealing with calls at 3am! Not exactly the exciting new beginning she was expecting. A couple of mutual contacts had mentioned me to her. I had seen her name on a business directory and a couple of contacts had also brought up to me. We arranged to meet for coffee and the rest is history. Konnexus was born.
Lesson #4: Learning To Focus
I would have classified myself as a multi-tasker. Everything going on at once – e-mails open, texting, making calls, 10 browser tabs open, google searches all over the place. Does this sound familiar to you too?
I have learnt over time that a day full of talking, typing, scrolling, refreshing and dealing with everything on the spot is not valuable to my mind-set and also hampers the ability to grow the business. The key to effective delivery is FOCUS. It is something we keep having to remind ourselves about and getting “back to basics”. We even implemented times during the day where we are not disturbed with the day-to-day running of the business (where is this, what did you do about that?) There are thousands of articles written about productivity and the debate goes on and on. But we are setting proper structures into our day, which will help us run way more efficiently and rather than getting distracted and off-piste, we are now operating in much more efficient and reliable ways.
Lesson #5: Invest, Invest, Invest
When I first started the business in 2017, I tried to do everything myself, wanting to be free and independent. The problem is, you quickly become over-awed with all the tasks. Something simple like setting up and integrating my e-mail took me six hours (and numerous frantic calls to Mary in an Irish call centre). No matter how hard I tried, I really wasn’t moving forward like I wanted to. After three weeks of being all things to all people, I FINALLY took the plunge and reached out to someone who could help me – a subject matter expert. I wanted to learn how to do all facets of the business, but we all have our strengths. Why not play to those and build some great new relationships and collaborations in the mean time? Since we set up Konnexus, Rina and I both independently learnt this lesson and now enjoy the fruits of our relationships with partners, collaborators and mentors.
These people help us avoid the malaise and help us grow our business, challenging us to be better every day, calling us out if needed and supporting us to provide more value to our clients and candidates. I used to think I could do all this good work for FREE. That’s the odd thing about humans – we value what we pay money for. If we pay $10 or $10,000 we are psychologically wired to follow through with things we invest in and pay more attention to, which in turn leads to better results all-round. These relationships are way more enriching to our day to day. No (wo)man built an island and this is fact in business. This has been absolutely true for us and also equally for our clients as well. The ones who have invested more time with us have got better and faster results.
The most important investment though is the one in yourself. Running a business is all-consuming and making sure you are looking after yourself is critical. Rina spends most evenings in the gym, which is great. I am not quite so good, but the one thing I have totally overhauled is my nutrition. Take care of your body, it’s the only place you live. Since cutting out the bad, the late night “treats” and keeping trans fats to zero, the energy levels have shot up and it’s a win-win all-round.
Lesson #6: All Aboard!
Another crucial thing I have learned in the last 365 days is make sure your partner is fully on-board. Being in business alone and then in partnership (as lucky as we are) can sometimes be a tricky venture. You are responsible for everything that happens – all the good, and the bad. I am by nature a pretty upbeat person and usually like to look at the positives outcomes: what we have achieved, rather than what we haven’t. But every now and then, a dark cloud will squat over our rosy garden and this is where your partner comes into play. When things don’t go your way or someone you really like doesn’t get the job they dreamed of, your partner can step into the breech and give you some helpful and constructive advice. A mantra in our household is “hard work always pays off”, so if something doesn’t work out this time, it certainly will next. This is why having your partner (and even friends and family) is a massive plus. They give you a little dose of reality when you momentarily lose the plot and you can’t see the path forward.
Year one has been a great adventure. We have already eagerly launched into the second instalment of our story.