Written by Leanne O’Sullivan, CEO and Digital Sherpa at Adventure Digital
The life of a business owner, especially a female business owner, is richly rewarding as well as mind numbingly difficult.
We often come round to the idea of wanting to be in business either just before or soon after starting a family. I know that is not everyone’s story - but it is mine. I wanted to be available for my children’s childhood as well as flex my intellectual muscle as well.
It was exciting to start a business with my husband in this bold world of the internet almost 25 years ago. For a long time, this business journey that I had embarked on was great. I had my kids (one just before we started the business and two soon after), we were managing two offices (one in Wollongong and one in Dubbo) and our business was growing.
It grew so fast, we went from five staff in two small offices, to 18 staff in three offices at one point. We moved to Dubbo from Wollongong, and away from my family, to better manage where the business growth was.
The internet was really starting to pick up steam and we had loads of business walking in the door. We didn’t really think about the kind of business that we wanted; there was only one kind, the paying kind.
We kept up the expansion in people and technology. Expansion and growth are great but they come at a price. Especially if they aren’t part of an overarching plan.
Things started to fall apart a little for me. I didn’t notice at first but I think my kids did. The sad thing is even though I had said I wanted to be in the small business to have more time for them, the reality of business meant something completely different.
The stress of juggling this growing business and growing children took its toll. As women, so much of the parenting and family stuff really does fall on us - even when we have a supportive partner.
Not only does cash flow impact our work decisions, it impacts our home decisions. We feel responsible for our staff in a similar way as we do our kids. We magnify these burdens and often don’t ask for help. People pleasers, please stand up.
So I rather spectacularly fell apart. After finally seeing and speaking to a psychologist, I got what my business and life sorely needed. Perspective.
I commenced a path back from a really dark place and started to put some ideas together to ensure that me and my business would never be in that dark hole again. Our business had become a mess and just like parts of my rather messy life, it needed to be cleaned up.
I looked at the bigger picture and started to pull together a whole host of tools that I had shared with others over the years but never applied to our business. We looked at the kind of clients we were attracting and asked some hard questions about whether they were right for us.
We documented our business goals and then looked at what digital tools we needed to make that happen. A misalignment of purpose and implementation became very obvious. A simple content plan in alignment with sales targets is a monumental mindset shift in any business.
We looked at what resources we actually needed and who we could work with to make things happen. We stopped DIY-ing everything.
There is no shame in asking for help.
And finally, I become less of a control freak. This one I am still working on but it means bringing everyone with me and stopping the feeling of only I can do it. Other people can do it.
Once I know what needs to be done, then I can make smart choices about who is the best person to do it and it won't always be me.
None of us is a superwoman.
This article was first published in OAK Magazine Issue 1. Listen to Leanne O'Sullivan's podcast episode on A Friend of Mine podcast.