In the past 12 months we’ve grown our business from 6 people to 24, skyrocketed our turnover, taken on new and exciting projects in industries we’ve had never worked in before, won awards and defined new goals and ambitions for where we could take our brand, all whilst remaining profitable.
Bragging over, I’m now going to attempt to convince you that this success was at least in part down to a simple mindset change, a change that I cannot say I would have made without listening to the advice of some great people around me. My hope is that when you read this article you will draw your own parallels and maybe it will help you too.
I’ll let you into a secret, I didn’t start my career thinking I must run my own business one day. In fact after I finished college I struggled to figure out how I was going to find a career that mixed being a musician with technology.
But Harry what about the yearbook? A friend told me a few years ago: “it’s quite cool to think that what you wrote in our secondary school yearbook has actually panned out!” After a few hours of searching through dusty boxes in the loft I found it….
It read: My best moment will be when I leave this school and make a better life in college. That statement doesn’t sound like I enjoyed school that much, but I don’t remember it being that bad!
How I would like to be remembered: Funny but with the really annoying
And my ambition: To become an owner of a good business and get a Porsche Carrera GT.
I forgot I wrote that! I remember being asked to write it on a slip of paper in our form room. Being honest with you, whether there was or wasn’t a subconscious desire to run my own business, I thought that was pretty cool. Just for reference I’m now 31, still have a pretty annoying laugh and yes, I’m still waiting for that Porsche dream!
By this point I’d made it through a couple of good jobs in IT, and decided to take the plunge and start my own business. Following a newfound passion for creative design and marketing, in 2011 I launched Equals Creative. For the first few years it was everything a one man band website and marketing business could be. I earned a reasonable living and had big ambitions for this small but profitable business. I grew it organically by investing part of what I made in recruiting a few good people and putting us into a fairly expensive, hot and stuffy, boxy office with one window. It wasn’t great but it was ours and we’d made it.
So why is this important for you to know? Well these were the years I formed a perception that my mindset was geared for growth, when in reality it was a mindset that would have had me doing the same thing year in year out in a business that was going somewhere, but not quickly.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved what I did, but the mindset I had developed without realising it was unhealthy for me, for the business and for the people I employed. If I wanted to achieve the ambition I had portrayed to myself and those around me, my attitude towards thinking and decision making needed to change.
2011 to 2016. That’s how long it took. In a “successful” business person’s eyes, that’s a long time. I don’t feel disheartened by that. With my early career in technology, I needed time to learn and grow into an industry that was new to me. From 2016 to 2018 I kept myself honest, sticking to my guns of growing the brand I had created. We were always growing, learning, adapting and working hard on Equals Creative and it was paying off.
But things never moved fast enough for me, growth was slowing and I was becoming less happy with my own performance. If the values I’d promoted were to be realised, the ambition to be tested and the trust of my team to honoured I needed to pivot.
I started this process by talking to people. This is the kind of talking that’s more like whining at your friends and harping on about being unhappy because of your own impatience. I like to think I’ve always been pretty self aware. I’d been fortunate on my journey to work with and learn from a few mentors and people that I’d looked up to. I’d also been lucky enough for them to listen to me harp on about my business problems.
I received this advice which I now pass on to you.
- You need to pivot to promote forward movement and positive change or change nothing and live with a business that will continue to grow at the same rate.
- When you say you’re going to do something, do it. Don’t tell the world you’re doing it and then deliver nothing.
- Mistakes you make through trial and error are ok as long as you’ve calculated the risk of making them. Not every decision will have a perfect outcome.
- Take calculated risk based on rationale not unnecessary risk based on your gut.
- Be patient. It doesn’t always go as fast as you want it to.
This advice lives right at the core of my everyday life, and although sometimes I don’t succeed, I always try to live by them.
Advice is great but remember it’s only data and as long as you treat it as that, you will have years of experience to help you make decisions. You own the decision you make and will need to stand behind it.
For me, the key realisation I had made was that I’ve always been a person with a growth mindset, but I wasn’t doing enough to unlock its full potential.
Time for change
There is a certain level of irony to the realisation that you need to learn, improve and fully capitalise on your growth mindset. “Am I doing enough?” I asked myself. “How do I force myself to be even more growth-minded?”
In early 2018 I decided I was through with the learning process of the SME world and ready to supercharge the growth of my business. I did this by:
- Fully embracing the growth mindset, putting it at the front of the list both from a business and personal perspective. The two are so intrinsically linked. You are the business and the business is you so you need to embrace both with as much enthusiasm. This is harder than it sounds as you need to make time for it, and as we know when running a business, time is a scarce resource.
- Promote and train your mindset into the people in your business. Make sure everyone knows the direction you are going and the results you expect. This way everyone puts their energy into the same objectives, helping you move faster to be more efficient with your growth. I fully engaged with the process of needing to communicate my plan and vision for Equals Collective to the small team that I employed. I was full committed to showing and updating them along the way to prove to them that our “collective” work has paying off. And my enthusiasm for this new growth also self perpetuated throughout the whole team giving us the new lease of life we needed.
- This is a controversial one. Hire people into roles in your business before you need them.
This is a risky (something I calculate thoroughly) but running a mainly service based business, I realised that I couldn’t sell clients what I knew would benefit them without having the right resource, in house and ready to work. Sure there are other ways of doing this, but this also motivated the business, allowing us to make progress our plan.
This motivated and worked for me, but I would advise caution to anyone doing this for the first time that hasn’t experienced this kind of pressure. You are the one that needs to make sure that you can continue deliver on your commitment to employing people. It’s easy to overreach
So what’s next for your business? Do you need to embrace your inner growth mindset and kick the next stage of your growth into gear or do you need to refine your growth mindset.
Whatever your thoughts, I implore you no matter how much of a growth mindset you think you have to take a look in the mirror and be self aware.
A growth mindset is only valuable if you take action, be real with yourself and live it in every moment. 2019 has continued to be strong for us and I hope my story helps you to make the same progress with your business.