How I failed in my first year in business
My company (aka.: ‘my baby’, my ‘pride and joy’) turned 1 year old at the start of September (2016). Nothing all that special, until you consider that a few years ago, I would never have even dreamt that having my own business was possible. A small town girl from a dodgy council estate, who was I to think about starting a company?! “No, not me. I couldn’t do that”.
But as I entered the mainstream of Monday-to-Friday 9 to 5, I decided I didn’t want to simply accept the Rat Race way of life. There had to be more to life than just sitting at a desk making someone else’s dreams come true. I just didn’t know what it was, or if I was even capable of having it. But instead of succumbing to my self-doubt, I set about creating the lifestyle I wanted to live, by creating the person I needed to be to have it. I embarked on my own journey of self-discovery, combined my education in psychology and passion for self-development, and became a transformation coach who empowers other people to achieve the same level of transformation for themselves. But starting my business, and transitioning from ‘PAYE’ to ‘Ltd’, hasn’t been an easy journey.
In the time since starting my business, I’ve obviously been to a fair few networking events, and one thing that always struck me whenever I met fellow founders was how well everyone always seemed to be doing, when I always felt like I was struggling. ‘How’s business going?’ – ‘Yeah really good thanks! How’s yours?’ – ‘Yeah good’ (I’d reply with a sunken heart and fake smile). Why was everyone else nailing it and I wasn’t? What was I doing wrong? I felt like I was trying to crack the enigma of how to get clients and be paid for what I do. Well over the course of time I came to realize that actually, starting a business is hard, and everyone went through tough times, it was just that no-one was talking about it. Everyone was quick to boast about their successes, but rarely did people admit their mistakes. The failures - what failures?
As a coach, I understand the power of being authentic, vulnerable, and brave enough to expose even the less appealing side of ourselves that we prefer to keep hidden. I understand the power of it because I see from my clients: the ones who achieve the most transformation are the ones that are brave enough to admit their deepest, darkest thoughts, fears and f**k-ups. So here’s me being authentic, vulnerable and brave, as I explain how in the first year of me running my company, I often failed:
I became obsessed with the outcome:
I was obsessed with ‘success’, measured by how much money I was (or rather, wasn’t) making. I’d grown up in a poor family and was desperate to escape the burden of always having to scrimp and save. But with this obsession for money, I lost my happiness, because the more I dreamt of wealth and financial abundance, the unhappier I was in the present moment, and the more I focused on what I didn’t have rather than what I did. I lost sight of the most important outcome of all: personal fulfilment. Personal fulfilment through transforming people’s lives. Once I focused on that, the money flowed.
I got impatient:
I wanted “success” and I wanted it now. I read somewhere that impatience is simply the lack of trust or certainty that things will happen as you want them to. Think about it: you get impatient in a traffic jam because you lack the certainty that you will make it to your destination on time. You get impatient teaching a concept to someone because you don’t think they will ever get it. You get impatient at your husband because you lack the certainty he will do the dishes when you want them to be done. In the early days, I still doubted whether I’d really be able to make my business successful, which lead to impatience, which lead to me working all hours to get things done, because – well EVERYTHING just because it HAD to be done NOW (when really, it didn’t matter if it was done today or next week – the outcome would be the same). Once I started to trust myself and my ability, I was able to enjoy life, enjoy building the business, and sure enough, attract more clients.
I focused too much on my price rather than my value:
I tried to charge my first potential client the price I wanted to be charging in the future after years of experience. It didn’t matter to me that I’d only just qualified as a coach. I thought I knew it all. I tried to charge what other well-established coaches were charging simply because, if they were getting that much money, why shouldn’t I? But I was missing the point. It’s never about the price, it’s not even about the years of experience. It’s always about the value. Do the perceived benefits of what you offer outweigh the perceived costs, to that individual? When I shifted my attention to serving my clients powerfully, by making my intention to simply make a big difference to their life, instead of just thinking about how much I was going to charge them, client after client said yes.
I compared myself to other people:
And worse still, to the wrong types of people – people in totally different industries with totally different businesses and expertise! I looked at them and saw what they were achieving and then started to feel inferior or worthless because I hadn’t achieved the same. As humans, it’s natural to want to gauge our own success based on the success of others, but it should be used as an opportunity to learn and propel us forward, not to let it play down one's own level of self-worth. Throw away your ‘Ruler of Success’ - there’s no such thing. Define your own measure of success and work towards that – not someone else’s.
Ah, the most common archenemy of freelancers and entrepreneurs. There are lots of books out there giving tips on how to overcome procrastination, but they’re mostly behavioural: ‘break the task down into small pieces’, ‘tackle the hardest one first’, ‘set a clear objective’, etc etc. However what I teach is that all behaviour stems from conscious and subconscious thoughts, beliefs and emotions. We act because we feel, we feel because we think. The act of doing nothing, or everything other than what you’re supposed to do, is a result of some kind of thought process which is making you not want to do that thing. For example, one day I realised that the reason why I was procrastinating was because I was being inauthentic. I had written the marketing for my coaching services on a concept that I thought would sound better and sell better. It didn’t come from my own true journey or purpose. It felt fake. When I realised this, I went home and re-wrote my website from my heart. I stopped thinking about strategy and instead focused on sharing. And now when I talk about what I do, I don’t have to think of ‘my elevator pitch’ or sales speech – I just talk. And finally my prospects call me and say ‘I really resonated with what you said…” So if you’re procrastinating, take a deep look inside at those subconscious thoughts and beliefs: Is your task really aligned with your true self? Do you believe in the project, in yourself and in your capability? Are you fearing the outcome? Are you fearing potential failure?
I refused to plateau:
I was GO GO GO day in/day out, not content with no-progress. I blamed myself for not working hard enough if I took a few hours off to relax. I didn’t appreciate the value in just simply letting things be for a little while. This doesn’t mean not working, it just means being content with having reached one milestone before striving for another. Once I finally embraced a period of plateau between milestones in my business, by easing off the gas pedal and focusing on experience and exploration rather than ‘make as much revenue as possible and as quickly as possible’, I let in a world of self-discovery. I was like an elastic band, being pulled back and held under tension, gathering momentum, taking aim, before being fired. Once released, whooooosh…off it goes.
Even with these mistakes, Aimee C. Teesdale Ltd is thriving, not despite my failings, but thanks to them. Thanks to slowing down I gathered the experience, insight, and confidence to quit my part-time job and go full time in my business, a whole year ahead of the goal I had originally set myself. Thanks to procrastination I discovered my authentic self. Thanks to greediness I discovered the meaning of value, enrolled my first client and got the ball rolling, scaling up my prices with every new client I attracted. I am grateful for all my mistakes because I chose to learn from each one of them. Mistakes and failures are not to be feared – they’re there to help us improve.
Failure isn’t the opposite of success – it’s how you get there. What are the mistakes that you’ve made, and what have they taught you? What have you discovered or achieved as a result?