Recently I shared with you that my biggest mistake was to buy a franchise.
In actual fact that example contained a bigger and more profound mistake.
You could say that buying the franchise was a localised mistake. It was wrong for many reasons.
I am temperamentally unsuited to following instructions and to the old-style sales approach they told us to use.
The franchise was not well developed or proven and the leadership were out of alignment with the business of the franchisees.
I could go on but they would all be things that were specific to the franchise: they are not major problems outside of that context.
In fact, I would even say they were not insurmountable problems within the franchise. It would have been far from easy, but I could have overcome them and made a success of some sorts from the business.
Instead the really big mistake that I made was to start a business that I didn’t care about, and that I had not put my heart and soul into.
This is not another hackneyed appeal to ‘follow your passion’ or to ‘go all in’.
This is simply a statement that if you are not fully committed to your business you just won’t get through the tough times to make a success of it. And there will be tough times, even if you make a better choice than I did and have a smoother path.
There will come a point where you can’t push yourself through the problems and the challenges any more and you feel completely spent.
That’s when you have to find some other resources, when you have to reach deep within yourself and connect with the reason for doing this - your “why”, your life purpose.
That is where you get the energy to keep going, and that is why you have to put your heart and soul into whatever business you decide to start.
You see, I thought my technical skills would get me through.
When you work in the corporate world, you get used to producing results without committing your whole self.
In fact, it is considered dangerous and foolish to put that much of yourself on the line.
So you retain a certain ‘professional detachment’ to whatever you do. It doesn’t mean you do not care: you have professional pride after all. But it does mean you don’t REALLY care. If it goes wrong, there will be another project, another role, another opportunity, and the paycheque will still arrive.
When it is your own business, however, that is not enough. You cannot dial it in like you can in corporate.
So, I spent the first 18 months of my franchise business driving myself forward.
I tried to push through the obstacles, to overcome the flaws in the whole enterprise and make a success of it.
Eventually, my wife insisted that I take a break and booked a holiday for us. We arrived to lovely sunny weather, a welcome change from the grey drizzle at home, and I went and laid down and slept for most of the first two days.
I was utterly exhausted and spent, and that’s when I realised in my heart of hearts that the business was not going to work (although it took me another year to actually admit it).
You could say I had returned to the well, time and time again, until eventually I drunk it dry.
It hadn’t taken that long, as I had not made the well deep enough. I had no been able to sink the well down into my soul, into my being, where there is an endless source of energy.
I hadn’t put my heart and soul into what I was doing and that is the real reason the business failed.
And that’s not a just a mistake in business, that’s a mistake in life.