17 May Success or Failure. What are you most afraid of?
In April 2009 I was one year in to my first ever business, an online dating agency which hosted offline events – which was quite a novel idea to the Scottish singles market in those days, we were miles behind London. Everyone thought I was crazy and frequently laughed in my face but I was determined and rolled with the punches. Like every first time business owner I was hugely inexperienced and had no idea what I’d let myself in for. Did I mention that I was completely skint? The kind of skint that keeps you awake at night and involves wearing an extra jumper and surviving on a diet of cereal and spaghetti hoops on toast. I had ploughed every penny I had into my business and the goal posts continually moved. I knew diddly squat about PR in 2008 when I set up but I quickly realised that in order to get customers I’d have to learn fast. Every week I emailed or phoned journalists and plugged my story. The end result was coverage in the Daily Record, The Herald, The Scotsman, Sunday Times and the local papers…..simply because I didn’t give up. It was a personal challenge because whilst I may seem outwardly confident I’m a private person and can at times feel shy. And I absolutely hate having my photo taken which is part and parcel of the process. I do this weird face but the fact is you have to get over people judging you, it’s inevitable.
PR coverage is of great value to any business but the reality is that for a business to succeed you need a product that people want to buy, and you need a master plan. Money in the bank to invest is handy too. In my naivety I blew my budget on bad advice from ‘experts’ and my business plan sucked. Oh man, it was a stinker, completely pie in the sky but back then I didn’t know any better ….and when it came to websites (We didn’t call it digital then, did we?) and online dating neither did the limited free advisors available to help me. That said, I am 100% percent responsible for everything, it was my baby.
In terms of making money my first business was a big fat failure. A stressful, painful, emotional rollercoaster. I’m not afraid to say that now, it’s much easier to put it out there when you are years down the road and the bruises have gone.
In terms of a valuable learning experience my first business was a humongous, gigantic SUCCESS.
Running that business gave me a fascinating insight into human behaviour and taught me about how consumers communicate and behave online. It taught me about the importance of language and how to market ideas and concepts that are challenging, or taboo, or difficult for people to admit are an area they need help with. It taught me that I am pretty awesome at sales. That’s an out of character cocky statement for me but have you ever tried to convince a stranger to spend £50 to attend an event where they know absolutely no-one, and will be judged and potentially rejected the moment they walk in the door? It’s not easy. I sold out over 30 events. (The women’s tickets sold out in 24 hours, the men needed serious cajoling and encouragement.) I learned how to set goals, measure success and calculate the return on investment from the channels I used to market my product. It taught me to listen to all advice but to do my own homework and trust my instincts before investing in any of it. It taught me a million valuable business lessons that paved the way for moving forward. It was the foundation for my current career as it introduced me to twitter and blogging, which led to working for PR and digital agencies and then my own consultancy. Kind of cool how life unfolds and the pieces of the jigsaw fall into place isn’t it?
At work these days I am happy. I make good money, I work on interesting projects with teams of cool, talented, committed and fun people, which means all the stepping stones to get here were worth the sleepless nights.
I found the Herald article in a box this afternoon, nearly 6 years to the day since it was published. Perhaps it’s a reminder of the most valuable lesson of all which was ‘If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.’ Maybe it’s time to set some new goals and go chap a few doors.
Where were you 6 years ago? What failures have you had that turned out to be the building blocks to your own success?