The turnaround, the startup and the downsize.

The last few weeks I have been recovering from a rather nasty chest infection and its given me a lot to reflect. Over the past year I have embarked upon massive change in my life personally and professionally.

This time last year, I was stepping out of a stable role with a global organisation where I had responsibility for a large team and a seven figure annual budget.

I embarked upon a journey of turning around a company, starting a new one and changing up my personal life. So what happened?

I have been in business with my good friend Jonathan for the last six years. We’ve had our ups and downs but generally we make for a dynamic duo. We’re not afraid of a challenge and we got our heads together this past year to launch a new business and dive into a failing one.

In September 2015, we launched our new marketing agency, iMARVEL! which is officially a year old this month and in January we started to repurpose an ailing print business which had been around for 30 years. At the same time after years of my waistline getting larger and larger, I decided it was time to downsize!

When you start something new you have to learn the trends, peaks and troughs, you have to fight for every lead and client and you have to convince people you can deliver on your promises. At the same time, you have to develop new systems, routines, processes and culture to make you the best you can be. This journey cannot be accelerated. There is no quick fix. It is something which is learned and refined as you go.

Taking over a business is completely different. You have set procedures, processes and culture which you have to learn and understand and in our case find what needs to be adjusted or changed. Getting fit is the same. You have to go against the habits and routine you have developed and create new ones. You have to discover what works and what doesn’t. We inherited a great team, willing and keen to grow the business. Together we had to deal with the problems as they came, understanding years of history, looking at what to keep and what to dispose of. It’s been scary, surprising and a huge learning curve.

So the final thing has been embarking on my own transformation, fighting years of habit, culture and behaviours which made my persona ‘larger than life’. I hated walking, I hated exercise and enjoyed Tyrrells crisps a little too much. I had to do it, but had to find a way to make it happen and not become a hope rather than a goal. I did it, I found a way to attach my weight loss to a project, which since January 2016, has seen me lose almost 4 stone in weight. Still a way to go but I am at my lightest for many years.

So what have I learned…

  • Starting a business and turning a business around challenge you to examine yourself and your strengths and weaknesses. It pushes you to raise your game.
  • It’s not about making money. It’s about our mission to help clients. Every business needs to make money but that is an outcome of successful mission.
  • Everything takes longer than you think. Twelve months is not a long time to make changes and see their fruit.
  • When things are tough, don’t give up. Your strength and belief is a key element of your success.
  • Payment policies; lax policies are no problem if you have millions in the bank. But in the absence of the huge pile of cash, be clear and fair about your payment policies (we all have bills to pay). In our case, we inherited some clients whose average payment was 120 days, sometimes because the systems we had didn’t work. Better systems helped us improve this massively.
  • Starting a business, losing weight and turning a business around all require you to write off money. I spent money on getting overweight, I have to write it off as wasted money. In the businesses, we did things which didn’t work at first or didn’t turn out as planned. Don’t get upset about it, just don’t do it too often.
  • If someone is buttering you up, they are about to take a bite!
  • Your identity and personality cannot be suppressed, it will be felt and should be celebrated as part of the business / life (unless you have issues).
  • To change bad habits you need to be replace them with better habits.
  • Play to people’s skills. Outsource if you need to.
  • Competitors can be easily threatened. It’s really funny hearing stories of competitors who are obsessed with us and stalk us on social media. Don’t obsess over your competition, just get on with your job.
  • Our customers are with us because they value us and what we bring to the table. We have to work hard to keep them. We are only as good as our last work.
  • Always trust your gut and work from relationship. It helps you to love your customers and your customers to love you.
  • Don’t charge your client for every little thing. It might seem counter-intuitive but clients appreciate it when you just ‘help out’. It evidences you really do believe in them and want to help them succeed.
  • Businesses cost more money than you think. Be prepared to trim your personal expenses to make things work.
  • Things will go wrong, how you respond to it, handle it and resolve it is the difference between growth and setback.
  • Trying to lose weight and turnaround a company both require you to force change but in a way which is sustainable over the long term. It doesn’t happen overnight.
  • When your eager to win new clients, choose who you take on wisely.
  • There are some customers / people / friendships that will never fit with you. Don’t be embarrassed about it. Sometimes things just don’t fit. Trying to be all things to all people never works. We tried it, it doesn’t work.
  • When competitors bitch about you; rejoice your doing a great job!

So this past year has been tough, terrifying and has challenged me to up my game. Thank you to all the friends, customers, partners and competitors (who made me chuckle).