The Oxford English dictionary defines journey as “an act of travelling from one place to another” but I’m beginning to feel like it’s also becoming synonymous with a growing breed of business coaches as a necessary cornerstone for any keynote speech.
Now, I’m all up for motivational stories – overcoming adversity, meeting your personal and professional goals and treading a path through life’s rich tapestry of adventure – but such things are far from a linear journey from one place to another.
As founder and director of a thriving small business I, like many other business owners, have had the opportunity to experience all shades of success and disaster as I walk the path through the early years building a business.
From day one I’d challenge the notion that it’s been a journey. It’s not often I jump in the car and drive off onto unknown roads with no clear destination in mind. Not only had I no idea what to programme into the sat nav but I found myself with a single passenger. Sure, we’d been on a double decker coach together before (as 2 individuals working in a corporation employing more than 10,000) but as a duo on an unknown route it was unfamiliar territory with little known company.
The good news – travel snacks were sorted, we both like salt and vinegar crisps! And this was a good thing because, in a start-up, it’s a luxury to have anything that is not a shared resource. Indeed, you soon realise that even the decision to buy a coffee machine feels like a potentially bank breaking purchase. That coffee machine was probably the first destination. We had no idea that a Tassimo would be our early measure of success. But, with our first retained client, came the assurance that we could commit to a monthly coffee pod purchase. A great start but we had to climb in and buckle up again quickly, this time with coffee in hand.
We had a client and they were happy. I’m pleased to say that the others that have followed suit have also been and continue to be. But a clear route from one to another? Not a chance!
We’ve diversified by accident, essentially finding ourselves driving off road, in rough terrain at the wheel of a golf cart. Luckily, we’re a crack engineering team and pretty soon we modified our vehicle into a full on 4×4. Lots of learning there – the risk of overcommitting for one. On a more positive note we realised just how adaptable running a small business makes you.
The next destination was recruitment. Finding and keeping great people who share your vision for a business – just how hard is that?! Especially as that vision flexed on a near daily basis for us anyway. Of course we did find these people. They are out there. Not always where you look but thank goodness they found us because the car feels a lot better with more on board, we’ve even managed to get a people carrier (I really hope you’re following the analogy here).
Better yet these great people help with driving and directions. Genuine hilarious quote from team member on a recent journey ‘Turn left at the next sensible opportunity’.
And now, well the road ahead looks great. Of course, I can still only see to the next junction but I’m sure that’s something many business owners will empathise with. I hope we might need a minibus one day, I love that we call at places I’ve never visited (and often not heard of) and sometimes it really is ok to drive through a storm.
I really hope it never becomes a journey because I think there will always be a destination beyond where we are. I think it’s more a story: I’ve become big fans of all the characters and I suspect we’re only a few chapters into an epic.