Contrary to what my wife says, I don’t always like talking about myself, and given I used to work for a social network, I’m not hugely keen on sharing one’s every whim and holiday snap with the wider world. However, for those of you unhappy with your lot, fed up with the corporate world but feeling tied to your regular salary and contributory pension (as well as the perceived security of long term employment), then I'd like to suggest there is an alternative - a life by design, so to speak.
Back in September 2016, I was sat at my desk in my home-office, paralysed with uncertainty and fear about my immediate future. I felt like a charlatan; a fraud and unworthy of my not insignificant salary. I used to love what I did for a living, but hadn’t done for a while. I asked my wife if she’d be understanding if I resigned from my job, though at that point I didn’t have a clue what to do as an alternative... I’m sure she didn’t really understand the implications of giving me the green light. Two sensations swept over me almost simultaneously - instant liberation tempered by growing panic about how to provide for a family of four! My family hadn’t asked me to resign from a well-paid job and all its perks, but they had given me permission to do so. This show of support has since provided me with my ‘WHY’, or my driving force, to ensure I make a success of myself going forward. My WHY is a far bigger driver than any previous quarterly target or set of corporate HR objectives.
Now, I’m conscious that what you're about to read will sound like an excerpt from a typical self-help book - the sort you may have skimmed through during a lunch-break spent idly at Waterstones; in fact, just the sort of 'new age' life manual I'd have scoffed at previously. However, if you find yourself at a cross-roads in your career and are actually stupid/bold/ambitious enough (delete as you see fit) to do something dramatically different, then I’d suggest you'll need to be open minded enough to look at yourself and the world differently. In short, it's all about a positive mindset and reprogramming your neural pathways - in other words, stepping out of your comfort zone.
Looking back, I can see that the onerous quarterly reviews and endless SMART goals and HR objectives (to be accessed via the dreaded intranet) do provide a framework for delivering personal growth and business success. I’d just become too long in the tooth, too sceptical and too disinterested in the business to play along. Now, sat here typing in my home-office, having reached a point where I can almost taste the fruits of my recent labours, I can appreciate that having the right mind-set is just (and probably more) important than having lengthy experience and in-depth knowledge of a subject matter.
I’ve a long way to go before I actually achieve anything worth shouting about, but the steps and thought processes I undertook (once I realised that property was my future - though these steps are discipline agnostic), has meant that I have laid some decent foundations. I'm confident now that I can see what our future will look like in another 18 months. I can't vouch wholeheartedly for my wife, but she's been super-supportive so far and largely kept any reservations to herself!
Define your Why
Bigger and weightier will be more effective. Refer to it often, have it close to hand. Create a vision board – I found it helpful to include images that represented the old life I plan never to revisit as well as those that represent a future life..
I hate this term, but you do need to 'go for it'. Stop cogitating, faffing and deliberating – get on with with it. Do at least one thing everyday that will progress your business.
Make them visible, make them accountable, make them measurable. I’ve written my 5 year goals, my 3 year goals and my 12 month goals. I then break them down by month or quarter which allows me to focus and not be overawed. I’ve written them on post-it notes and stuck them above my desk, I’ve written a letter to my future self saying how chuffed I am that I hit my 12 month goals. I’ve drawn a Blue-Peter style thermometer tracking my revenues – my kids love this one and pester me to get to the next benchmark quicker.
Be true to your values
Collate a list of characteristics that are important to you. How would you like to be described? What type of person would like to work with? People will sense if you’re genuine and will be attracted to working with you/buying from/investing in you if you deliver against a set of core values that are intrinsic to you.
I had an interest in property when I started out, but I didn’t know how to actually make a go of property investment or raise private finance. I didn’t have time to learn by my mistakes or blindly hope I'd find the right properties, raise finance and add value; let alone become familiar with rudimentary (aka fundamental) things like adhering to all of the licensing regulations required to be a landlord. I felt it was far more effective to pay for proper training and learn from people who've been there, seen it and done it. Training may seem a big expense, but it’s nothing compared to the potentially huge cost of putting right an expensive or illegal wrong you've committed out of ignorance or in haste.
Surround yourself with like-minded people
Believe me, I’m not one for cheesy sentiments, but it’s far easier to be positive, inspired and driven if you’re constantly meeting successful, interesting, positive people.
Play to your strengths & find your flow
Concentrate on what you enjoy doing, what you’re good at; don’t waste time trying to put a powerpoint together or do the bookkeeping if someone else can do it far more efficiently. Free up your time to focus on the things you love doing, that in turn will drive the business forward.
No one else will if you don’t, certainly not in the first instance. Have the self-belief and confidence to deliver on your goals; stay true to yourself and follow your plan. Yes, there'll be plenty of challenges but ride them out and stay focused; seek the help of others and enjoy the journey.
I can imagine my ex-bosses choking on their cereal if they were to read this. How can this be the same Poddy they used to try and keep on track? I can truthfully say I always loved the people element of my work, but I just didn’t have the passion for mobile advertising by the end. Having come to the point where I wanted to do something pretty dramatic and change the course of my life, I was able to draw on the support of those around me, which in turn motivated me to crack on and find a new venture.
Clearly, there is more to it than sticking to the few points outlined above. However, I’m more than happy to enlarge if you’re interested in getting in touch. What I do know is that I’m loving working for myself and making a go of it. I’ve been able to reassess the value of money, no longer trade time for money, have the choice and flexibility that isn’t available when working for a company. I’ve also matured as a person, learnt an incredible amount about myself and about running a business. Ok, I miss the salary, the bonuses, perhaps also the professional ‘status’, but in another two years I’ll have replaced all these things with something I can really call my own, and had a good deal of fun along the way. Regrets? ….. none.
Simon Podd, Parris Property
Generating Significant Returns for Investors