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Startup life in the time of Corona, Lesson 3: Motivation and feelings

In this series, I share with you some of the key learnings I have had from my first 6 months of launching my first startup (Shiageto Consulting) and how those lessons are applicable for the challenges my business is facing during this pandemic crisis (and any business at any time in fact)

The initial challenge

"I love running my own startup but at the same time I hate running my own startup."

When planning to launch Shiageto Consulting I thought through loads of different aspects of the Strategy, the Offering, the target market, the pricing, the approach to Sales & Marketing and much more. But, one thing I didn't put all that much time into thinking about was motivation and the feelings I'd have while running the business.

It's the number one thing though that springs to mind when people ask me "how's it going?" and it's a big part of success or failure for my business so it's something really important.

I often describe running your own business as like having your own personal roller-coaster (now the pic makes sense); there are so many highs and lows, much more than when you work for someone else, and so much hinges solely on you. Let me be clear, it's amazing fun and I'm so glad to be doing it but there is no escaping those highs and lows.

Let's start with the highs: basically anytime there is success, you revel in it so much more . If you land a new piece of work, if a project goes well, if you get good feedback, if you have a good client meeting, if one of your articles gets read, etc. you pump your fists, get a rush of endorphins and feel sky high. Why does it matter more? Well, because it's all because of the effort you made, the decisions you took and the good work that you did. It's easy to take that for granted when you're working for a big company or that your success can be attributed to 'the machine'.

When I landed my first piece of work for Shiageto, I was over the moon, you had to peel me off the ceiling. Somehow it meant much more than the million pound contracts I used to land at my previous companies; I love those highs :)

However, you can't have the highs without the lows and those can come just as often (it's your goal to make sure there are more highs than lows). They predominantly come in the aspect of business development (I'm yet to have a bad project, touch wood) and nothing hits you harder than rejection. First it's the rejection of your business in its entirety as people ignore your business or are unaware of it; you do some marketing and then get no response whatsoever (not even 1 like :/). Much more though it's the rejection of your business development approaches.

Every business has different ratios but I find that when I send out 100 new communications (be they emails or phonecalls), I get only 25 responses. These will lead to only 10 actual meetings from which I may get 3 opportunities to make a proposal and eventually land 1 new piece of work. That's great I hear you say; so send out those 100 communications or try to improve your marketing effectiveness so that you only need to send 50 of those initial communications. I am working on that, but whatever the ratio, each one of those non-successful contacts is a mini-rejection. It's not like I'm reaching out to people that don't know me, each communication is to an acquaintance so each time they ignore it or turn it down it feels like they are rejecting me. You need a thick skin otherwise it can hurt (it's like asking 100 people out on a date and most of them turning you down, doesn't matter how confident you are, it's not a nice feeling).

How has the pandemic amplified my challenge?

Like I've said before, all that Covid19 has done is amplified the challenge. In this case, money is tighter and (as discussed in my last blog) people are less open to new communications so it's taking way more new communications to eventually land a new piece of work. This means that I'm now experiencing 999 rejections instead of the 99 I was previously. Forget thick skin, I literally need to be put on a rhino suit covered in bullet proof material.

On the flip side, I'm sure that when I land a new paid piece of work under these conditions (I haven't quite been able to do that yet - I have been doing work for free to help my clients and they are grateful for that which in turn gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling) it will feel incredible. It'll be like completing the English Channel swim in a suit of armour - quite an achievement!

Add on top of that the fact that I have my own worries about health, family and lockdown to contend with and that because there is less work to get stuck into, I'm getting less opportunity for positive interactions with clients so it is definitely feeling like a longer period in the lows at the moment.

So, what are my takeaways from this learning?

How am I coping with this? Well, fortunately my life experiences have made me part rhino (no, nothing to do with being horny) but ultimately it's 3 things that inspire me and keep my motivation high:

  1. PASSION - I completely love the work that I do and the business I've created. It's what I happily do even without being paid for it. I write articles, recommend content, design tools on effectiveness, strategy, focus and emotional intelligence not to impress others but because I am passionate about these. Like an overexcited puppy I want to share that exuberance with others and help them on their own progress to success.

  2. FRAMING - I have always believed that there is no such thing as a bad experience; as such each low, each rejection, is in fact a powerful learning opportunity. Doesn't matter how much it hurts, ultimately I would rather experience it than not as it gives me a chance to learn, adapt and refine.

Nelson Mandela got it spot on when he said "I either win or I learn...I do not fail"

3. BEING HUMAN - At the end of the day, I have discovered that I am much better when I let my emotions out rather than bottle them up. So, it's ok to get angry, to get sad, even to cry (I've done all these in the last 6 months). Just as it's ok to get ecstatic and hug random people (well, maybe not now with the virus but before definitely). It is one of the reasons that I'm so happy to be open and honest with you all (even if a few friends think I may be sharing too much).

And that my friends is what I have learnt about motivation and feelings from 6 months of launching my first startup. As I say, a total roller-coaster; Disney watch out my theme park is coming!!!!

Hope you've enjoyed the read, join me next time as I talk about what I've learnt about leadership and the roles you play when you launch a startup. Hasta luego!

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