When I went to school they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life- John Lennon
‘We’re £30,000 short of what we need to survive the next 12 months Kelly, we need to make a decision… to close or to see it through’. Those were the words uttered to me by my accountant, and great friend Holly in January last year, 4 months pregnant and balls deep in a business I’d put my heart and soul into for almost ten years. The business was thriving, but here we were, in the hardest times we’d seen in a decade.
Many of you who already follow me, either know me for my happiness journals, or perhaps for the time I danced in tena pants across my landing at 8 months pregnant; an Instastory that will remain etched on my Insta-identity for the rest of time! This is for the most part, at the forefront of who I am on social media, but underneath it all, I am a mother, who owns 3 businesses, forever learning to navigate her way through new chapters without losing that all important feeling we all crave in life; happiness.
I own a successful dance school in Cheltenham, have written a primary school dance curriculum and developed a CPD package for staff training as well as my latest project, creating happiness journals. To condense what I have learnt into a blog post is almost impossible, but I want to give you a few golden nuggets of advice; the fundamentals if you like. These are the key things I’ve learnt over the last decade, and I hope sharing them with you, will allow you to implement them into your own business, or use them as a framework for a start up.
I am not your girl if it’s a ‘get rich quick’ scheme you are after. But if rowing your own boat, flexible working and good mental health are on the agenda for you, I am your girl.
Here are my 7 tips to maintaining good mental health in business.
1. Build a Network
This is SO much easier since Instagram came along. It’s bursting with entrepreneurial women all supporting one another and championing each other’s brands. It’s a haven for networking. But seriously, not only is having a network key for growth, it’s key for those days when doubt creeps in and you are not sure which direction to take. Self-employment is wonderful, however it brings a lot of self-motivation and working alone. Nobody to bounce ideas off, or even a reason to get dressed at times when you do it from your front room. Having a network is a bit like having a team at the office. My network is small. I am careful to stick to who know me well, and have vast experience in business. I have my Dad, my accountant Holly and my fiancé Kevin (who is mainly there to pass chocolate and tell me when to down tools). I’ve just joined the Cheltenham MumBoss Club so that’s bound to help. I think gone are the day of shirts and ties and stuffy networking meetings at 6am. Self-employment is much more a jeans and jumper affair whilst the kids scoff biscuits and women bash out ideas over a semi warm brew. Multi-tasking at it’s best (well, we’ve been doing it for years right?) I am loving this era of entrepreneurs.
2. Know Your Numbers
‘Duh!’ I hear you say. But seriously. SO many people do the number in their head, or roughly map out their costs and profits. You need to know your numbers inside out. Secondly, ALWAYS make a worst case scenario. If you’re business is just going to survive by the skin of it’s teeth, it will not work. Cash is king. You need to ensure there is a small pot for unexpected costs, because there will always be something to shell out for, particularly if you want some room for growth.
Each year with my accountant (finding one who knows what makes you tick is worth it’s weight in gold while we’re on the subject), we sit down and cost project. We use last years accounts to fill in all the sales and expenses, and replace last years expenses with the coming year. This allows me to see how my bank balance will be affected by changing the figures, such as stock outlay, rent increase, product sale increase and so on and so forth. We are quite brutal in this version. It’s all ‘worst case scenario’. We then use the exact same template and apply all the ideas I have in the sale section with goals I want to achieve. This shows me my ‘dream profit scenerio’ and gets me thinking big. We finish this with one down the middle, a more realistic stepping stone before the dream one.
What this does is shows me where I need to be to remain safe, what potential my business has, giving me heaps of motivation, and shows me a realistic stepping stone to head towards first which helps me to narrow my focus and do it one step at a time, making new ventures successful and sustainable.
3. Be Aware of Your Weaknesses
A sure quick-fire way to fail in business is to be so ignorant as to think you can do it all. Remember what it is that you are good at. For me, I am the ideas girl, the creative one who likes bringing ideas to life and presenting them to people. If I obsess over the book keeping and the organisation, I lose the energy I could be spending on what I am best at. Delegate or die as they say. Some of the best businesses out there fail because the person running it can’t let go. I highly recommend reading a book called ‘Who Moved My Cheese’. It’ll take you half an hour and show you what I mean. Of course, in the early days, you need to do it all whilst you build up. But this requires extremely long working hours, which is just not sustainable in the long run. Be selective in your choices, go with your gut instinct and if someone is good enough at what they do, they will make their money back in no time as you will be set free to do everything you are best at.
4. Be Your Own Customer
You must read ‘The Disney Way’. In fact, the manager of every company should read this book. The way Walt Disney approaches business is a magic I try to bring it to everything I do. Ask yourself, would I want to revisit me? Am I giving an experience that stands out from anywhere else? Make your brand is so great that people feel compelled to contact you to say thank you. If you have customers that happy, they will be your very own free of charge marketing team without you even having to lift a finger.
5. What would Alan Sugar say?
There will be moments in business where you are forced to make some really difficult decisions. I always ask ‘What would Alan Sugar say? It’s easy to become blinkered; blinded by the heart you put into it. But you must learn to look on without emotion, and focus on the statistics. You are never identified by the business you own. You are your own person, running a business, which can close, change direction or be reborn at any time. You have the power, it does not have power over you.
6. Forge Forward
Lots of start ups get stuck here. People find excuses as to why they can’t start. ‘I emailed a supplier and never heard back’, ‘I can’t find the materials I need’, ‘I am waiting for the hover boards from Back to the Future to finally be invented and then I can get going’ (Ok, I made that one up!) But, just get on with it. Once you know what you want to do, and your numbers are in place, GO! Call suppliers…all day if need be. Source that product you need so much. Develop that idea. Write, build, educate yourself, don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do. Business is all about taking immediate action, learning new things daily and forging forward with willpower and belief. Living in this way does great things for your mental health as you learn to become comfortable being uncomfortable. You have to go out there and make your own work, and that does great things for your self esteem. If you do what you have always done, you will have what you’ve always had. Don’t be scared to colour outside the lines a little and remember that making money requires no qualifications. You just need to front to make your mark in the world.
7. Have an Attitude of Gratitude
Finally, of course, be bloody grateful. There will be days you work 18 hours, barely have a second to shower and flop into bed wondering if it’s really all worth it. But it’s really about perspective. You had a shower. You’re in a warm bed. You’re working towards something special. As long as this doesn’t become a hamster wheel of working like this day in day out, it’s manageable. The one thing you must hold onto in business, is gratitude. Feet firmly on the ground, thankful for all the opportunities that come your way. Being thankful for what you DO have whilst working for what you don’t will make all the difference.
Running your own business is hard, and there are days when you have to dig really deep to find the answer to why you do it, but if nothing else, it teaches you that the world doesn’t owe you anything, and that you must constantly focus, reflect, self-develop and push forward if you want to get results, and that in turn benefits all areas of your health.
I hope that these few tips I’ve learned along the way can help you develop your businesses and take back a level of control when it comes to your health and happiness.
I’d love to hear about the businesses you run, or hope to run. There are so many mums out there smashing the self-employment game, or waiting to enter the arena. It’s great to hear what everyone is up to, or hoping to do one day.
A Guest Blog from Kelly Terranova