My fear crippled our business, how not to let it cripple yours.

This post will be a little difficult to write but I’m hoping that I’ll learn something about myself in the process and maybe I can pass that something on. I’m going to run through our first real business Funkybump Maternity, how we started it, how fear crippled it and how we’ve come out the other side.

A short background

Both myself and Sinead were made redundant a month before our first daughter was born. Everyone was devastated apart from us. I had an opportunity to take on a decent job in Belfast but I knew that would make me a one day a week Dad and that was something I wasn’t prepared to do. Sinead had been struggling to find maternity clothes during her whole pregnancy and wanted to set-up a shop with our redundancy. I was against the idea as we just wouldn’t have the foot fall needed to cover the cost so we settled for an on-line store. I build a site, we got stocked up and launched. Knowing nothing about business we wasted money in so many places being fresh meat for every sales call or advertising opportunity but as time went by we got better. The thing that stood us above the competition was our willingness to learn and I learned fast. Our adwords groups were more profitable then our competitors, I consumed Search Engine Optimisation and soon we were ranking on the first page in Google.

Our dream at the time was to move to Portugal and we knew the nature of the business would have to change to allow us to make the move. Keeping stock was the most expensive part of the business and that, coupled with shipping/returns, was a bit of a nightmare so I suggested that we switch to an affiliate site, getting commission to sell other peoples products. Sinead was very wary but we made the switch, built a really good site at the time and jumped in. We offered value by going through and classifying every piece of clothes so people could find exactly what they wanted without leaving the site. In no time we were No.1 in Google for our terms making very good money and spending lots of time in our beloved Portugal.

And the fear kicks in

The company was doing amazingly well, we were dominating the uk market, had special commission rates with most of our companies but instead of developing and growing we just stood still. I knew we could make things a whole lot better and what we should be doing but didn’t make those changes. The truth is we ranked number 1 and I was afraid of making the changes because I thought we would drop off. I always thought that the other companies should be ranking above us, the more established ones, and was constantly waiting for Google to open their eyes and put us back where we belonged. I didn’t create the discount newsletter that would have moved us into a whole new ball park, I didn’t get help in to develop the site into a post pregnancy discount site. I didn’t do any of those things, I just waited. Things were going brilliant and I didn’t want to take the risk. You see, its easy to be brave when you have nothing to loose, starting up was the easy part. I didn’t know at the time that when things are going well is when you really need to strap up and get stuck in.

We were all ready to move to Portugal, had a house ready, booked the ferry to drive over but Sinead wasn’t happy with things. At the time I was to invested in leaving to even notice. Then the house of cards started slowly falling. The economy was going to the pan, but I wasn’t worried as people would still need maternity clothes. What I didn’t see was that it wasn’t our business that I should have been worried about. Our biggest partners started to go under and the our income started to fall. Sinead knew it was coming but this is where our second problem really showed. We didn’t have proper reporting and accountability on a weekly or monthly basis. We’d been doing so well it was never a priority and as things were going from bad to worse I still ploughed on.

By the time we were due to go Sinead and I had a long talk and realised that it wasn’t worth taking the risk with our girls education so we decided not to move. I was devastated. Don’t get me wrong, we went out for 3 months had an amazing time. I worked on other projects whilst out there hoping to resurrect the dream but in September 2010 we drove home.

The aftermath

Google updates happened and we got spanked because I hadn’t added the value that I knew we should. I was adamant it was only a temporary setback, I talked a good talk but my heart just wasn’t in the fight. In the end we were in serious financial trouble so I got a job working for a company building their site and re-branding them. It was a good job and that’s when I kinda fell asleep. I woke up in the summer of 2014 and this is where we are now.

So where did the fear come from?

I really don’t know is the answer. There was no hesitation in starting the business, when everyone else we knew wouldn’t do that sort of thing. But when things were running for a while I think that part of me thought we were just pretending. There were long periods when I was a busy fool doing lots of work that wasn’t needed while ignoring the things that I didn’t want to see. Not having any weekly/monthly reporting or accountability was a big mistake as well. I think in many ways I was employing the ostrich technique having a look around enjoying the scenery but when something came along that I didn’t like to the look of sticking my head in the sand.

I also didn’t realise how much it must have effected me. I’ve never wanted to work for other people but I embrace this job with everything. Throwing myself into a career. I even considered going to university to get a marketing degree which is so far away from who I am as a person. The truth is this was my way of not dealing with the failure, keeping busy to not have to really think. But there is no running away from the fact that I’m an entrepreneur, I’m not built to work for other people and can never be truly happy if I am.

How to not let it happen to you

First of all accountability. This is the big takeaway. Accountability to your figures, accountability to other people, accountability for your tasks.

  • Figures: Make sure you have useful figures, kpi’s whatever you want to call them showing the cashflow of your businesses, what its making, what your best products are and if you are overly dependent on any thing in particular. Run these figure by a third party as well
  • People: have a meeting every week or at least every month regarding your business and its direction. If you don’t have someone to meet with find someone. Its not hard to find other entrepreneurs who are in similar situations. Send a few emails and you’ll be amazed at how may people would like to be part of a mastermind/accountability group.
  • Task: Have clear business objectives laid out. Then break down your tasks and pick the one that will bring you closest to your objective the fastest. If you need a clue Its normally the big ugly one that you’re hiding at the bottom of the pile. Break it into 25 minute chunks, close everything else down then start on the first.

There is plenty more but these three things would be the stand outs. Share your ideas, share your fears, get feedback and you’ll be well on your way.

So where to from here

I have new businesses on the go and I’m really enjoying working on these. One of my first steps was to define exactly what these businesses are, what they would need to do for me to consider them successful. Then to put some reporting together so I can see exactly how I’m progressing towards those targets. Although Sinead isn’t directly involved in them I’ll be having monthly meetings with her to discuss progress and get an honest outside input.

I’ve built a task management system around these goals and my next task is always the one that will get me the closest toward where I want to go as opposed to doing the things I enjoy the most first. I’m going to be creating a mastermind group by the end of February with minded webtreprenairs to give an extra level of accountability and to be able to contribute to some other peoples success. When we started the business we had lots of time to work on it, maybe to much time, but now my time is very limited and extremely precious which makes being on point even more important. My focus is much better and even though I have 4 projects to spread my time between I’m making progress on each one.

Believe it or not I wouldn’t change a thing about the rise and fall of Funkybump. I worked from home with Sinead until our girls went to school . Everyday of their early lives they had both of us around and that makes me very blessed. I got paid to get an amazing education in on-line business that no school could ever supply, I’ve learned a huge amount about my strengths and probably more importantly my weaknesses. These are precious gift that I will always have, they will make my life better every day and that is something that I’m much richer for.

I’m going to end with an amazing quote by an amazing man

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.

If you’ve failed and came out the other side don’t be shy of sharing in the comments!

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