During the early stages of FortyTwo Studio, I was keen to share my experience as a new business owner - the challenges, the highs, the lows and the outright fun of it. But recently I’ve been a little stuck. Have I anything new to say that’s worth sharing. There is enough guff out there already, why add to it?
The weeks and months go by and I have not written a word nor thought of something new to say. I tried to think of themes or topics that would allow me to show off what FortyTwo do and how we have it all sussed out - but, you know what, who wants to read about that. So instead of a specific content plan or a considered structure, I’ve decided to just type how I feel. Stream of consciousness. No editing (other than typos). Just the bare truth of being 3.5 years in business - the good, the bad and the confusing. This is for my fellow business owners out there - those I know already and those I have yet to meet.
It’s 22.12pm on a Tuesday, here goes…
Never being content
You attract a new client or win a whole new account and it’s great… for about 5 minutes, then the same contradictory concerns about needing even more new business and not being overly reliant on any given account creep back in and you are off planning the next win.
Can’t keep your hands off
Regardless how much of the business needs ‘running’. Despite the above insecurity, I still find time to potter in the day to day and get involved in the actual work itself. Now whilst overall involvement is important based on the experience I may have, I should resist actually working on the project - leave it to the professionals!
Good not great
Related to both of the above is that I genuinely want FortyTwo to be the best – whatever that means. Best creatives, best business, best studio, best, best, best… and I want it now! I am fortunate to be working with some of the best people I have ever worked with, all of which can absolutely get us there but I’m an impatient and fickle fool at times.
I am my work and my work is me. I am my family and my family is me. I feel that I have constructed a very healthy work/life balance but so much so that I have zero time for anything else. My Family and My Work, that’s pretty much it and I’m fine with that… I think. In fact, I’m exceptionally lucky to have two so very vital and fulfilling influences in my life.
This is too much fun
I’m having the time of my life. Brilliant team, great clients and fun work. What’s not to love. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and can’t imagine doing anything else. But should business be this fun? Am I challenging myself enough? (see point 8!). Shouldn’t I have an ulcer or something by now?
Simple. When am I going to get found out for the amateur I am…
Stress or pressure?
When does a challenging workload become stressful for the team. When does an acceptable amount of pressure to deliver great work become something altogether more stressful? How can I ensure that doesn’t happen? How can I notice it before it takes it toll? I struggle with to answer this.
Am I risking enough?
Business owners take calculated risks to encourage growth and success (so I’m told). Am I risking enough or playing safe? Is having a healthy business enough or should I really ‘go big or go home’… business is confusing, where are the manuals?
Business owners take calculated risks to encourage growth and success (so I’m told). Am I risking enough or playing safe?
What if the team dump me?
They are a very capable bunch. Do they actually need me at all?... See point 6.
The dissenting voice
We do great work. We enjoy the kudos. We have developed great relationships with clients/collaborators/suppliers. Our business is healthy, we are growing and (broadly) doing what we want to do… but… that one bad meeting, one lost pitch, one person who disagrees, that one error… that’s the thing I obsess on, that’s the person I want to win over, regardless of any other success. I may do it quietly but these small failures stay with me and are absolutely a driving force. May sound like paying attention to the little things but it drives me mad and I’m not convinced it is of any value at all.
Awards are dead. Long live awards
Here’s what awards are not. They are not the mark of the best work that year. They are not the mark of success. They are not proof that you know what the hell you are doing.
Here’s what awards are. A fun night out. A nice moment for those who worked on something. A valuable marketing exercise (we can draw a line between the awards we’ve won and actual real work commissioned). Finally, it makes clients smile and enjoy being part of it.
You can both embrace the concept of ‘awards’ and have a healthy cynicism towards them at the same time. We’re not daft.
The Big Picture?
I can tell you where I want FortyTwo to be in 3 years time, in fact I obsess on it and plan everything we do on that strategy - succeed or fail. But to what end? I get asked all the time ‘whats my exit plan?’ and ‘How far do you see FortyTwo going’ and I don’t have an answer yet? Is that poor planning or lack of ambition or is it both?
So there you have it, a dozen thoughts plucked out of the 100’s that form my waking (and half sleeping) existence. I hope my fellow business owners both new and established see themselves in this. I really hope you do, otherwise being a business owner is a far lonelier place than I had hoped. What stays with you? What voice do you fail to silence?