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Five Unexpected Truths about Running your own Business

Updated: Oct 5, 2022

When I started Halo Jewellery I had all sorts of wonderful ideas in my head. I guess figuratively I expected it to be like a stroll through a strawberry field, picking strawberries at my own pace; a lot of work, but peaceful, calming and allowing me to do things my way. Little did I know that although running your own business doesn’t have the same rat-racey feelings as doing a corporate job has, it comes with a host of totally different health warnings. So here are five unexpected truths I’ve discovered in my business journey so far.

You never switch off

This came as a total surprise, not least because it made me realise how much I did actually switch off in my previous line of work. Now I never really switch off, not because I can’t, but because I don’t want to. If something interests you as much as my business interests me, It's not a chore to be looking at the stained glass windows in a cathedral while on holiday, wondering if I might be able to pick some feature out for a new design.

My last thought before I fall asleep is about Halo, and my first waking thought is about it. What did I do today? What do I want to do tomorrow? What do I want to achieve next year? What can I improve on? All these and a myriad other questions whizz through my head as I wait to fall asleep. It’s wonderful, but it is strangely un-restful.

Successes and failures – you own them all

I thought that once I started my own business, I would have no fear of failure, because I had no boss. It wouldn’t matter if I failed, because I’d have only myself to answer to. I found exactly the opposite to be true. I’m the toughest, most unreasonable boss I’ve ever had!

And the failures don’t have to be big. They can be tiny; little things like whether the tone of your email was just right or whether a blog post was too long. I worry about these things a lot. And I’m right to worry, because a business isn’t this one big thing. A business is made up of a lot of tiny actions and tiny decisions as much as it’s made up of the big actions and big decisions. They all matter. And when it’s your own business, every success and failure is yours.

It’s more freedom – but less freedom too

You start off thinking “I can do what I want.” But you can’t, not really. This, I think is the illusion that a lot of people have when they start their own business. I don’t deny that you have a lot more freedom because you have nobody telling you what to do and when to do it.

So absolutely, I can have a lie-in every morning, roll out of bed at 11am and work while watching Suits on Netflix if I want to. But if I’d done that, my business today would be where it was two years ago. The reason I’ve made good progress is because I haven’t exercised those freedoms.

Just because you have the freedom to do something, doesn’t mean it has no consequences.

A business needs an anchor

This might sound silly. An anchor weighs you down, and stops you going anywhere. Why would I want to do that to my business? I don’t. But while the freedom to let my business take any direction I want it to fills me with pure, unadulterated joy, my mind needs an anchor around which it can bob about like a boat. Without it, shiny object syndrome would go wild, and nothing would ever get done. And I know Halo isn't the only business where shiny object syndrome could be a real threat to success.

I’m working on my Christmas range right now. I’ve already decided on the theme, drawn out the pieces and made prototypes of many of them. There’s a photograph of one above. Yet I’m constantly toying with the idea of introducing more and different things. “Wouldn’t this look lovely in gold?”or “I’ve always wanted to design a range of dainty, mismatched earrings.” These and many other ideas are constantly swilling around in my head.

My anchor? I allow myself to release only one new range each year. Without this to act as a tether, I’ll attempt to do more than I have capacity for, and will execute everything poorly. So having an anchor of sorts isn’t as silly an idea as it first sounds. I just have to remember to remove the anchor once in a while, and set sail again.

It doesn’t get easier with time

When I started Halo in April 2020, I was nervous and excited. I had absolutely no idea of how things were going to go, nor anything to measure against. From where I started, and the resources I had, I didn’t do badly at all in my first year, and expected my confidence to increase as each year went by. Nothing can be further from the truth.

The reality is that I now have something to compare Halo against – the Halo of previous years. And that’s a terrifying thought. A whole host of new fears and insecurities have surfaced. What if I don’t do as well as last year? What does that mean? What will people think? Where am I going wrong? What should I be changing? The list of doubts, questions and fears goes on.

The good news is that I’m not alone. I spoke to someone who’s been running their business for 15 years, and they still have these doubts every year. I think it’s just one of those things I’ll have to accept. Fear, nervousness, doubt – these aren’t always bad things. Apart from anything else, they show you care.

And finally…

There will be as many unexpected truths as there are businesses. A small, self-financed business like Halo and a jewellery business that is externally funded with a hefty sum will have very different trajectories and challenges, and will learn different truths along the way. We may even be vying for the same customers, but we are not comparable.

That’s why I’ve realised that while being aware of the competition is an absolute must, comparing ourselves to them is pointless. We can only see where they’ve got to, but have little or no knowledge of their motivation, their resources, the risks they’ve taken or the sacrifices they’ve made along the way.

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