Running a Start-Up Business: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The first thing you need to know about running a start-up is this; you’re a start-up until you’re profitable and money is flowing in like you dreamt it would…

Even then, I’d be cautious about making any self-affirming claims. In Robert Kiyosaki’s book ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ he explains that in the U.S 9 out of 10 business’ fail in their first year and for those that stay alive, 9 out of 10 fail before reaching their 5th birthday. That means that only 1% of all start-ups in America reach 5 years old. A major down fall for many entrepreneurs in my opinion is letting the short-term gain go to their heads and slip out of their fingers faster than Usain Bolt, running to the car dealership, Rolex store or even splashing out on a property upgrade.

We started Ivywell as two young entrepreneur types that between us have made enough mistakes to write a book about. From all the conversations I’ve had with highly successful business owners, books I’ve read by them and about them, I know success doesn’t come without first experiencing failure. By the time I was 14 years old I had been buying, selling, wheeling and dealing for 5 years. A friend and I, lets’ call him Charles, emptied half of my bank account to purchase some overseas electronics I knew we could sell for a huge profit. Once payment was made via Western Union the seller emailed to say that unfortunately his boss would not allow them to use Western Union and instead we’d have to pay again using Moneygram. He assured me I would be able to retrieve my payment from Western Union and unless I made the second payment quickly, the electronics would be unavailable. I rushed to my local post office and conducted the second payment, resulting in a complete emptying of my hard-earned funds…

I never heard back from that seller. I was also informed by both Western Union, Moneygram and Trading Standards that I didn’t have a leg to stand on – the money was gone.

You might be thinking ‘OUCH’. Yeah. Same. But the value I gained from the lesson I learnt that day far outweighed the loss of 5 years earnings. I will always double, even triple check my decisions with a colleague, my father or my wife.

To put that example into the present – imagine dealing with the sale of a property upwards of £10,000,000. You have to be extremely street-wise to any uncouth behaviours and dodge things like money laundering quickly and efficiently. There is no room for naivety in this game.

Ok. Let’s get to it. I’m going to give you my top 3 points for each. First – The Good!

1. Freedom 

I am free to work as hard or as soft as I like. I am free to take a day off to take my wife away at the drop of a hat. I can turn my phone off, sleep by a pool and practise working from a place of rest when I know my body tells me I’m pushing it too hard. The only issue with this is that the more you get the bug for success, the less you let yourself experience the freedom having your own business brings. Depending on how you structure your business will also have a big impact on how much freedom you can indulge in. My advice – hire competent people who are better than you at what you’re hiring them for. Don’t micro-manage and learn to delegate. If you can master this, you’re sure to experience as much freedom as you like.

2. Money

If you like money and all it brings, which I’m sure is most of you, this is a real bonus – but don’t get ahead of yourself – the love of money is the route of all evil. There are two things I’d like to say to you about money. Firstly, learn to live with an open hand. Be generous. If you’re not already generous, start small. Pay for a meal you don’t need to. Have a chat with a homeless chap and give him a note. Buy some flowers for your Mother. Once you get the generosity bug, that’s when you start to experience real joy. If all money brings is faster cars and snazzy stuff, is it really worth all that hard work? Secondly, please please please learn how to make money work for you. Money has unlimited energy to work around the clock forever. Get it working and build your asset column before spending it all. Financial freedom is achievable so go for it – to reference my first paragraph of what is becoming a rather lengthy blog post, keep the mind-set of a start-up until you reach your goals. Then you can breathe.

3. Relationships

When I worked for corporate companies, the corporation came first. I commuted 3 hours a day at one point and often worked 6 & 7 days a week. My relationships suffered with my friends and family. Now I run a business with Zac, not only do I get to spend all day with him, our staff and wonderful clients and industry professionals, I also get to prioritise my relationships. My nephew recently fell ill and I managed to see him in hospital every day, help my brother and sister in-law survive and be there. He’s fine by the way… But hopefully point made.

The Bad & Ugly

4. Stress

Now this one’s a killer – literally. The level of which you can stomach stress will determine your overall success. But hold on – yes, stress will come in waves. Big waves. But it’s about how you deal with those waves. You either surf the crap out of them or get washed out to sea requiring the services of David Hasselhoff to bring you back to life. However lovely a touch from The Hoff would be, we all want to ride that wave in, right? The good news is you can. Stress is a choice. A decision. Your inner spirit can choose whether or not it’s going to give in to the depths of it or simply refuse. My recommendation… say no to it.

4. Rejection

There’s really no positive spin on this one. Rejection’s hard. I personally hate rejection and it’s a big part of my day to day life. Hearing the word ‘no’ can be difficult but each ‘no’ is another rung on the ladder toward a yes. So, chin up guys – it’s a journey and the destination is going to be great! Whether it’s small or large, the key to moving forward is to dust yourself off and get back at it as quickly as possible without dwelling on the rejection. I find that I come alive in moments of blocked goals and objections – but that could just be me. The sense of achievement is euphoric when successfully turning a no into a yes. My encouragement would be to not take no for an answer, until the person saying it stops answering your calls. But there’s always another phone you can call from… 🙂

4. Despair

The definition of despair is the ‘the complete loss or absence of hope’. On occasion it creeps in and rears its ugly head. If your mind-set has sunk all the way down to despair, then there’s really only one or two things you can do to climb out. Either call someone who loves you, open up and let their encouragement act as a rope of hope – or get back to the grind and let time be the healer. The amount of times I’ve sat with Zac, both with our heads down thinking ‘shoot – what on earth are we going to do’ is too many to list. Utter despair is a red flag and I would encourage you to try and look at the situation from a bird’s eye view. At the end of the day, whatever’s happened – has someone died? Are they about to die? If the answer is no, it doesn’t really matter. If your loved ones are healthy with a roof over their heads, you’re good. Remember, the lesson is probably more valuable than the loss.

While reading this, I hope you’ve understood my heart and desire to pass on what I’ve learnt so far. Zac and I don’t have it all together. We haven’t reached success or financial freedom – we’re on a journey and the destination is going to be great. I truly believe we as humankind are capable of far more than the little voices in our heads let us believe and I hope this article has been an encouragement, if not a little break from whatever you have going on today.