Would you do it? Harvest Talent Recruitment & People Solutions is celebrating 10 years in Geelong. Director, Maree Herath reflects on her business journey.
If you knew in 10 years you would:
- Miss a great deal of your kids growing years
- Receive little to no salary for three years with no government assistance
- Sell off your house to make ends meet
- Work yourself into the ground to resurrect a business and lose a marriage in the process
Would you do it?
Many would say “You’re crazy!!” As many individuals wouldn’t withstand one of these sacrifices not to mention them all.
Don’t panic! There is a not a woman who is on the edge writing this article, but these were some of the biggest challenges I’ve faced, and overcome, in running a business.
Whether it’s similar challenges or other issues small business owners encounter, small business ownership is not for the feint hearted!
It can be great, don’t get me wrong.
Being a business owner provides flexibility, the opportunity to carve your own path, make your imprint on the world and leave a legacy.
It also means many long days and sleepless nights, working long hours and knowing that ‘the buck’ stops with you, to make it work.
There are plenty of people in my network, friends, family and my staff included, that see me as lucky. “You’ve got it all” “You’re well off” “It would be nice to be in your shoes”
What they don’t know is behind the successful confident business woman and company Director they see today – it’s been a hell of a ride! I’ve experienced the highest of highs to the lowest of lows and today as my business turns 10 if asked if I would do it again? I would. But with my 10 years under the belt I would do it differently.
From my mantle as older and wiser and with the clarity of reflecting on my business journey I write this to every business owner, no matter your age or stage in your company my tips to you.
Be really clear on your WHY
If you are not sure why you’ve decided on this path, you may have found that you’ve just bought yourself a job and nothing more. When the rubber hits the road and the first sign of trouble comes along, you will dissolve. You need to be so committed to your purpose that you will continue keeping on, when the world and circumstances dictate you shouldn’t.
Have a Business Plan
I created a business plan in July 2009. I launched my business in September 2009. The business plan came before the business. It is continually reviewed and refined and, by and large, the course my company has travelled has been the course I documented all those years ago. Goals keep you on track. When the day to day may not be clear your goals keep the momentum going as you press towards achieving them.
So many individuals who start a business get too fixated on the flexibility factor – working from home in their PJ’s or doing a four-hour day and loving it. Tuning in and out on a whim. I have watched many business owners struggle for this reason alone. Your business will not grow and provide you with a moderate annual income if you are doing it as a part-time hobby. If you cannot trust yourself to do the work – surround yourself with accountability buddies to keep you focussed. The reason why personal training works is you are ‘buddied up’ with someone who wants you to be the fittest, strongest, healthiest version of yourself and partners with you to achieve these results.
I am sole Director and I have relied heavily on my own capability and determination to charter my path. However, when you don’t know what you don’t know – get a mentor to help bring clarity to your situation. I remember hitting my first hurdle two years in as I attempted to grow my team. I engaged a mentor and they helped me understand and unpack why.
When the cracks were really showing (in my work and personal world) I was fortunate I had the “Brains Trust” – a group of like-minded business owners who helped me believe in myself when I really had little faith nor confidence that I was going to come out of my situation.
Today my mentor is my growth mentor. Having taken my business to a certain level, this mentor is stretching me, beyond myself and giving me the tools to drive and direct a larger organisation.
Get a mentor. You will never regret it.
Shore Up Your Financials
Something I would tell you to avoid at all costs; if you are in a “couple relationship” don’t both be the entrepreneur. You need one of you to pay the bills if things don’t go as planned.
If you are an individual ask, “Have I got the financial reserves to see through the tough times?”.
I don’t know many small business owners that haven’t had bad years. DO NOT… I repeat… DO NOT bet the house on your business. It is not worth it and will cause all sorts of grief that you cannot even imagine.
My business launched around a young family. I started the business while my husband cared for the kids. I was making little money and he was making no money. We had assets but I don’t think we “played the movie” of worse case scenarios. I had an office in Perth and one in Geelong and when the commodity market crashed, we were blindsided. We reacted, rather than responded with certainty, to our situation.
While I had an instinct for how my business was going, the two key factors that have really paid dividends is having financial dashboards and operational targets. Every month I look at budget versus actual and make the changes necessary to pivot the business or develop the staff for mutual success.
You can’t assess what you can’t measure.
Know the key drivers of your business and ensure you are delivering.
Make Time for Life
So many business owners, and I am guilty too, are wed to their business. Their business is their life. While we are a passionate bunch – you have to be to do what you’re doing for yourself – there is life outside of the business. Don’t ever forget that.
I love work. “Get a life.” Most people think but I do love it and I’m naturally drawn to it. I love making a difference. I love that my business allows me to do this, everyday. What you cannot do is have it outweigh everything else.
Think of a set of scales – on one side is work, on the other side is life. Make sure your life focus is balanced on your scales. Friends, family, sport, hobbies, learning – the things you’ve always had that make you complete. Assess this regularly. At times you may be swallowed by the circumstances of work; ensure it’s not perennially this way. If you are working too much, pull back for a period and get the other aspects of your life in order too. If your response is “If I take my foot of the gas my business won’t succeed.” While I never would have heeded this advice in the past, you need to really weigh up if running a business is for you? The sacrifice may not be worth it.
Now I’m going to be frank. With 10 years and my business at its most successful, I wanted to chuck it in. Why? People would think “Maree you’ve pushed so hard for this. Why pull out now?” But that was exactly why. I had pushed myself so hard and I knew clearly all the sacrifices I had made. On my anniversary, my commitment to you – my public audience – is that the next 10 will see the balance come back. I have already made some big decisions to see this happen.
To rephrase my 10 years in business. In 10 years, I have:
- Three very well adapted, independent and capable children – two now in senior high school
- A steady income that keeps me and my family comfortable
- Committed to never “bet the house” again – if the sacrifice is that great, it’s not worth it
- An advisory team that ensure that I don’t get myself in trouble and I have clear targets and measures to know how the business is tracking
- Keen stakeholders who want the best for me and my business
- A “second-time round” loving relationship and a friendly, amicable relationship with my ex who himself is happily engaged
To all the amazing business owners out there, who really keep our country going… I salute you!