‘Oh my god, I work 24/7. I just can’t help it, I love work so much!’
This is the first common myth we came across when we started our first business, LY Productions. Every other person we spoke to who started a business would bang on about how they work non-stop and they eat-sleep-breathe their business. Mae and I thought we weren’t working hard enough and we’d never be successful. Then we realised the reality – there are only a handful of people we’ve come across in the last 5 years of meeting other business owners who actually work non-stop and they don’t tell you they’re workaholics… because they’re too busy working. The reality is, working when you want to is one of the main benefits of starting your own thing and most people are actually very relaxed. If you want to take every Monday off, take every Monday off. If you want to only work in the mornings, only work in the mornings. If someone tells you they work non-stop, take it with a huge pinch of salt – they’re probably projecting a false image.
‘Oh, we just got a 70 person office space in Holborn with a personal chef.’
Confession: I would love a desk at WeWork because who doesn’t want to hang out with other people’s dogs without having responsibility of keeping them alive. And unlimited coffee is an attractive prospect (albeit dangerous). But, some people are structured workers and some are nomadic workers. Mae works best in an office and I work best in my pyjamas at home. There’s often pressure on startups to legitimise their businesses by having a permanent address and people tend to associate a ’no office’ reply with ‘struggling startup’. If you work better at home, if you’re a lean business, in the process of raising funds, you travel a lot for work, or one of the hundreds of other reasons I could give, it doesn’t make sense to get a desk space, so remember; the existence and/or size of your office isn’t a representation of how well your company is doing.
‘Ah yeah, that’s our trophy cabinet.’
You don’t need an award. Most awards are about who you know and not what you do and often you have to pay for entry – sometimes in the thousands. Awards are impressive, but lots of them are trophies representing elitist systems. We know many, many companies who should be winning all the awards and getting recognition but they are overlooked because they don’t have the right networks or enough manpower/money to enter.
‘We raised £3 mill last week.’
Most of the time, investment means you’re struggling to grow organically and you need an injection of cash to make waves. But if you can grow without having to persuade a couple of super rich people to give you large amounts of money, that’s even better (and there’s a lot less arse-kissing). So don’t feel pressure to get investment if you don’t want it – investment isn’t a stamp of approval, it’s often just a survival technique.
‘We’ve got 30,000 followers and we only started our account yesterday.’
Quality, not quantity. 100 completely engaged followers will bring you far more influence and brand power than 1000 people who aren’t hugely familiar with your business. Your target market are likely to be engaged on other platforms, especially if they’re over the age of 25.
‘There’s no TIME to have fun. We’re ALL business now.’
This has been the latest lesson for us. As a two-person business, we found ourselves becoming competitive and trying to one-up each other when it came to workload and clients; an attitude that had spilled over into our personal lives. It all came to a head when we’d been working on a pitch and it became clear there was a level of resentment and anger rising to the surface, but it was manifesting itself in the way we were tackling the pitch. In the end, we decided it was best to leave Mae to do the main body of work and for the sake of efficiency and I would et her get on with it and focus on the other urgent things. We barely spoke for two weeks.
Eventually, after Mae had submitted the pitch, we had a very long conversation and addressed the glaringly obvious issues that had been escalating for the best part of six months. We realised we had been sucked into this micro-climate of self-importance. We thought the world revolved around ERIC and everyone was so on tenterhooks about what we were going to do next that we had begun to take the brand – and ourselves – incredibly seriously.
Not only had we lost sight of the fact that, although what we do has grown to be important for a lot of the ERIC audience and clients, it really doesn’t merit that level of seriousness and we’d somehow also missed the point of why we started it; a) to be a friendly, young and relaxed voice for young people to connect them to industry b) because Mae and I wanted to make work fun for ourselves and c) because we’re able to work together as best friends.
Since that conversation, our working relationship has gone back to what it used to be – two best friends who have an amazing time together, enjoying the rollercoaster of a little business they started and who are able to actually make a difference on a grassroots level. Moral of the story: A competitive brand is not a fun one. No one likes a brand that takes themselves too seriously and never let your business consume you – the people that let that happen are incredibly boring and serious.
Written by Samantha Hornsby, Co-Founder of ERIC www.ericfestival.com
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