In September Cavill + Co turned 20. I still pinch myself that I have been able to sustain a business for so long and am still deeply passionate about it.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for sure… the exhilaration of entering the amusement park, the first flush of excitement as you board the train, the sense of fearlessness..the adrenalin.
This can last a few years as long as you are one of the few that survive the first year of business. Then the reality sets in. The train is climbing higher than you thought; the curves are sharper and the hills steeper! Oh my god I’m going to vomit. Then the train rocks to a smooth part of the track and you’re back on solid ground, ready for another ride. Merry-go-round anyone?
Being an entrepreneur is not an easy path to take, it’s not for everyone. For anyone thinking about starting a business or a social enterprise, here are my 6 top tips that may help:
1. Grow some balls
You’ve got to be brave. You’ll be making hundreds of decisions a day and often while on the run. Whilst you can consult others for advice, at the end of the day you have to say what goes. Don’t overthink the decision, develop a strong intuition and trust it. You’ll get it wrong more often than you’ll get it right. Be brave in making the decision and be even braver in owning that decision even if it transpires to not be right. Dust yourself off, have a cry (or punch a pillow) if you want, then get up and do it all again, but better.
2. Avoid using moisturiser
You’ll need a very thick skin. I’ve been criticised for being too hard, too sensitive, a self-promoter, OCD, competitive, demanding, a diva even! – oh the list goes on. In order to not be worn down I’ve had to grow a very thick skin. It doesn’t mean I don’t listen, or hear what they say. I’m just selective about who I listen to. People who have achieved success beyond my own in a style & with values that I respect, I listen up. Pretend business people (you know the type, they have a business card but essentially a non-income generating hobby and spout advice to all and sundry) I tend to ignore. People’s opinions are just that, not the truth. Take it on the chin, take on what feels right and ignore the rest.
3. Ask good questions
I once heard that ‘the quality of your life is directly related to the quality of the questions you ask of yourself’. It is important to really get this. Ask the big questions. What am I here for? What is the truth? Am I fulfilling my purpose? If I died tomorrow will I be proud of what I have achieved? 20 years have flown past and I won’t get those 20 years back. Was the time spent creating something important, building something of value? Did it make me and others grow? Yes yes yes!
4. Be yourself
Coco Chanel once said ‘you might as well be yourself as everyone else is taken’. I spent a great deal of my 20’s and 30’s striving to look and act like someone else. It’s exhausting. Just be you, the best version of you. Business is all about relationships and people…having a great product is important but in my experience even when dealing with the biggest companies in the world, it’s all about the relationship between me and another human. In this fast paced world where narcissism rules and manufactured identities are the norm…be authentic..and that means being you. Easy to say, hard to do. I found my ‘ME’ and authentic voice from travelling through Africa and Asia solo with a backpack, quiet reflection and lots of therapy!
5. Put yourself first
It took me a while to realise this, but you have to put yourself first. What I mean by that is pay yourself first and everyone in the queue behind you. it sounds selfish but it’s actually not. I know small business owners who pay themselves what is left at the end of the month – what message are you sending to your brain? Take time off…look after your health…the deadlines, the inbox, the unread emails, the facebook, the client work..will be there tomorrow. In the past when I’ve had physical and mental breakdowns from overwork…I am no use to anyone. If you look after yourself you can then be of service. If you want to sustain a business for the long term you have to pace yourself. Yes I’ve worked my butt off and many a sunny weekend has been spent inside glued to a small black box bashing away at the keys. But I’ve made time for others, I’ve mentored some amazing young people, I’ve had some fantastic holidays, I’ve learned to dance Latin, paint, blow glass, build my dream home and I even manage to sustain a healthy relationship with my man. Time out gives perspective and rejuvenates. And this is the hardest one of all.. I haven’t mastered it yet!
6. Know the problem you are solving
If you are not solving a problem that some people are having, you haven’t got a product or a business. So many people fail to sell because they are inwardly focussed (hey I’ve got this fantastic set of steak knives!) rather than customer focussed (hey, are you struggling to cut that BBQ meat? – here, look at what I have for you!). All entrepreneurs are good at explaining and selling their product – and what makes them good is knowing the customer’s problem. No-one likes to be sold to – but everyone wants their problems solved! Keep digging at this, keep evolving your product…never go stale or so will your market.
And if you are committed to running a business with ethics, give ‘The Diamond Cutter’ by Geshe Michael Roach a read. Confronting but an essential guide for life & business.
Blog over and out! Hailey