If you’re an OG follower of SBJ’s… you’ll know this business was born when I was just 19. At the time, it was just me; fresh outta’ highschool with literally zero experience in any agency setting (having only worked in hospitality and admin). I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know what GST was when I started, … let alone how to run a business.
While starting a business at a young age has had many advantages for me, today I’d like to talk about the mistakes I’ve made over the past two years that, in hindsight, I think has been due to my age & lack of life experience.
SO, here it is… 3 big mistakes I’ve made in my time so far as a business owner
1. Making decisions / chasing after goals that would make me *look* successful from the outside looking in – rather than focusing on the life/business I truly want to build for myself.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but for the first 18 months of being in business? Not ONCE did ever stop and think… “what kind of life do I want this business to provide for me?”
Instead, I looked at what other successful businesses tended to do when they experienced growth… and subsequently ended up chasing those goals rather than the goals that would allow me to live *my* dream life.
Specifically, this meant striving to hugely expand my portfolio, my team and even get an office space in Sydney. I chased these goals so hard I actually almost got there. I locked myself into an office space, grew the team to 5, and found myself saying yes to every client/lead without considering whether we were actually the right fit for them, and vice versa.
Suddenly, … I was stressed 24/7, constantly anxious, waking up in a panic every day knowing that my to-do list was going to be absolutely impossible to get through.
Within a matter of weeks, instead of me running the business, the business started to run ME. I would cry from stress & self doubt so often that I believed that behaviour was just the normal life of a business owner (I can assure you it’s not, or at least doesn’t have to be).
Anyway, one morning I think I received an angry email from a client I just couldn’t seem to please no matter how hard I worked or what results we achieved for them. That was the tipping point for me – I was ready to give up. I called my dad to tell him I needed help… and obviously burst into tears before he could even say hi (soz Dad) lol.
Dad spent a while with me on the phone as we chatted through how I was feeling and what I should do, he reminded me that I control my life & my business… and if I want something to change, I’m absolutely capable of doing so.
I jumped off that call with so much more clarity and made the decision to restructure my goals to the lifestyle I wanted. So, here I am 6 months later still WFH/looking into co-working spaces, a team of 3, and a portfolio of all my dream clients. I’m working when I want and how I want with the satisfaction of knowing all our clients are not only happy, but that we’re still making massive impacts on their brands and livelihoods.
2. Irresponsible spending habits
When a 19 year old becomes financially independent… it can be dangerous. I had zero experience in anything finance-related when I started this business. Combine that with the fact I come from a pretty poor family… my spending habits up (until about 3 months ago) have been atrocious.
It was only when I changed accountants recently and started to actually invest my time into learning about tax, saving, cash flow forecasting, etc. that I understood how bad I was with my money. When I saw our profit number for FY18 & FY19, I thought… ‘there must be a mistake, where has all that money gone?”
Admittedly, I used money to impress people and (as my therapist has suggested) to get people to like me. I won’t go into too much detail… but this was a big wake-up call for me a few months ago.
P.s. highly recommend my new accountant Julian from Mauro Accounting Group – for those who will be wondering who I changed to.
3. Listening to advice from strangers/family members who know nothing about my industry and haven’t achieved anything similar to what I want to achieve.
When you start a new business, I imagine it’s similar to when a mother has her first child. You are constantly bombarded with unsolicited advice and criticism from people who might do things slightly different to you. From day one of running a business, this has been the case for me. I’ve had to deal with a lot of patronising remarks from strangers and other business owners who seemed to be turned off by my age.
Me, not knowing any better, of course listened to every bit of advice and took it onboard without questioning it in the early days. In hindsight, this has led to me making some decisions I definitely would’ve done differently if I listened to my own gut – in particular, when it comes to our rebrand in October last year (when we changed names).
Anyway, what’s done is done now and I’ve learnt my lesson to trust my own intuition and my own gut feeling above all else – it’s genuinely never proved me wrong.
…annnnd there you have it. 3 mistakes I’ve made as a business owner. I’ll most likely have an updated version in 12 months time to share with you all, hahaha! Business-ownership throws so many learning curves at you whether you’re experienced or not, I’ve learnt it’s about embracing it, letting go of the fear and just going for it.