Leadership lessons – navigating your own route to success
Running your own business can be an emotional rollercoaster. Rome was not built in a day, and neither is a sustainable business.
Along the way, every CEO faces a variety of problems, from IT needs to balancing the books. These are not the things that cross your mind when starting off with an idea or passion.
In my experience there are many pitfalls to avoid, and the learning opportunities from these setbacks can make you and your business better.
Here are my best pieces of advice from my nine years running The Tree.
1 “As the business grows, the things you fall in love with seem to get further away”
We all start a business with a passion, and as it scales and grows, the reasons that drove you to begin your journey seem to get further away. The planning and dreaming phase are what keeps you motivated so when you start getting involved in the more practical and menial aspects, it’s important to hold the values that brought you here close.
2 “Find joy in the things you aren’t good at”
It’s human nature to hide away from weaknesses and the things you fear. If you struggle with numbers, for example, it can be easy to ignore them. The ignorance is bliss mantra may seem appealing, but to be successful you can’t hide from your problems. Instead, don’t be afraid to learn and feel vulnerable. Taking on challenges gives you the chance to grow and become a more well-rounded business owner.
3 “Don’t feel guilty for taking time away from the business”
We all suffer from burnout. As we invest so much time into our businesses it’s no surprise that we can lose sight of our life around us. It’s neither healthy nor sustainable to commit all your energy and time solely into your company. It’s crucial that you have interests outside of the day-to-day, whether it’s family time or hobbies. Being able to switch off and have downtime will keep you motivated in the long run.
4 “Lean on your peers and network”
Being a business owner can be very lonely. Even if you’re surrounded by a brilliant team, their experiences can be different to yours, and it can be hard to talk to them about the challenges you face day to day.
By having a network of like-minded people in similar roles, you can collaborate on the challenges you deal with, rather than worrying your team with cash flow concerns. Through my role as the chair of the Creative Marketing Council, we have managed to create a membership body that brings together the varying disciplines of marketing. These networking opportunities are invaluable in helping share the best ideas and driving your business’ growth.
5 “Don’t be afraid to delegate”
When you invest your life and soul into your business, it’s hard to let go. But ultimately, this is unsustainable. Trust is important for growth. Surround yourself with a team that hold similar values, ambition and drive so that you can trust them to represent the business needs in the same way you would. Let them make mistakes and learn. This will allow you to enjoy the success of your team with a more ‘hands-off approach'.
6 “Be careful of taking on too much advice”
It’s important to caveat this as I am a big advocate for taking on advice throughout your career. But I’m also a believer of ‘paralysis through analysis'. You learn a lot through experience and sometimes your self-belief, gut instinct, whatever you want to call it is actually a subconscious rationalisation of your acquired knowledge. Overthinking your every action in response to the opinions of others can be detrimental to your business. After all, too many cooks spoil the broth.
7 “Enjoy the chase”
There are so many roles and responsibilities that go into running a business that it’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything going on. I aim to lean into everything I do and embrace the diversity of the day-to-day. I try to enjoy the unknown.
8 “The more bloody noses you get, the more resilient you will become”
Things don’t always go to plan. Making mistakes is in human nature and it’s a key part of your personal and professional growth. When starting a business, you will inevitably face setbacks and it’s how you react to these that will determine your success. It’s important to step back and think ‘what are the learnings from this?’ By acknowledging your shortcomings, you can ensure that you are prepared for future issues, as you know you’ll always come out the other side. Building this resilience can be both rewarding and exhilarating.
Ultimately, every person and every business is different. Our individuality is our best asset and allows us to produce valuable work and services in our own way. A one size fits all approach will never work. By having confidence in yourself and your ideas, alongside a true understanding and appreciation of this, it can allow you to grow your business, your team, and yourself.
• Daniel Andrews is CEO of The Tree, a multi-award-winning social and content marketing agency.
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