5 years, 5 lessons: what I’d say to myself the day I started my business

On this day five years ago, I threw open the door of The Remarkables Group. The door of the spare bedroom that is…

I had finished up my role at Naked Communications three weeks beforehand, returned from a holiday to Europe three days before, and spent the previous two days making last-minute changes to the website and generally freaking out about what the hell undertaking I was about to embark upon.

My boyfriend (now husband) kissed me goodbye as he left for work at 6am, and then it was just me in my Ugg boots sitting at my new home office desk at 7.30am hitting “publish” on the website.

In a way that morning feels like only yesterday, and yet the Lorraine who sat there is a totally different person.

We hosted an intimate dinner for our closest clients a couple of weeks ago at the QT Hotel to celebrate our fifth birthday a little ahead of schedule, and the only word I could use to describe the last five years was “transformational”.

Starting my own business has been the biggest personal development exercise I have ever encountered.

It’s also an exercise that never ends.

Sitting there on that chilly May morning in 2012, I thought I’d have this business thing nailed in a year or two – then from there I could kick back and relax.

LOLS!

The lessons keep coming, the highs get higher, the lows get lower and – if I’m perfectly honest – I still don’t feel that I’m anywhere near nailing this business thing.

Its fifth year has most definitely been the most transformational in The Remarkables Group’s history.

In the last 12 months we commissioned the first independent research study into influencer marketing, completely changed our business model, brought a partner (Natalie) into the business, launched Remarkable Pets, kicked off the second year of the Rising Soci@l Star talent search, moved office space and unveiled a rebrand.

For me, I published my first book Remarkability, which went on to become a bestseller and I’ve also got a new start-up in development – our first baby!

The stats on start-up businesses are daunting – apparently anywhere between 90-95% of new business fail. So to make it to the five-year mark feels like a big bloody achievement, and a good time for reflection.

I’m a big fan of the “Lessons Earnt” in the Virgin Australia Voyeur magazine, where a business person tells their younger self the lessons they’re about to learn. So I’ve been pondering over the last couple of weeks… What would I go back and tell Lorraine on 16th May 2012?

I’d tell her:

Dear Lorraine 2012, 

You are about to go on the most thrilling adventure of your life – an adventure that will transform everything. Your skills, relationships, self-awareness, knowledge, finances (and not necessarily in a good way!), capacity to impact others – all of it will change beyond recognition in the next five years.

You have absolutely no idea what’s ahead of you, and I won’t tell you as you might pack up right now and call Mike and ask for your job back.  I will let you in on a few little snippets though, and a handful of the lessons you’ll learn over the next five years.

1. Back yourself

There will be some big calls you’ll have to make in the next five years. From cutting off fruitless (and horribly, horribly expensive) new ventures to exiting team members from the business, there will be sleepless nights, intense stress and an overwhelming feeling of having absolutely no idea what the fuck you’re doing.

Remember that the greatest magic will follow when you listen to your gut, and take the next step that will serve your business, your team, your clients and your own sanity best.  

After 4.5 years of representing influencers, in October 2016 you realise that a new model for influencer marketing is required in the Australian market.

You’ll make the decision to part ways with the 23 influencers the business represents and board a plane to fly/drive around Australia for a week having the toughest conversations you’ve had to have in the business to date. Believe me, starting the business will feel like a piece of cake in comparison to this period.

From the 1st January 2017 The Remarkables Group provides independent, unbiased advice to brands on their influencer marketing strategies and a whole new learning curve ensues as you and the team create new models on best practice for Australian brands to work with influencers. Seven top-tier brands see the value in what you’re doing in the first four months, and a whole new business is born.

 It’s vital that you constantly remind yourself that courage is not the absence of fear. You’ll have the chance to get to know incredibly inspirational business leaders over the next few years, and you’ll find it comforting to know that each of them experiences a healthy dose of fear on a regular – if not daily – basis.

 2. Focus on your own yoga mat

(I borrowed this one from one of my mentees, Claire, you haven’t met her yet. I love the analogy!)

When you start the business, there is only one other operator in the influencer marketing space. Fast forward five years, and you can count 40 with ease.

The landscape will become increasingly varied and competitive, and at times you will be distracted by what other businesses are doing in the space.

It’s vitally important that you and the team focus on what YOU do best. Focusing on anything else takes much-needed time and energy away from blazing your own trail – and (refer back to Point 1), that’s when shit gets really exciting…

3. With the right people, anything is possible

Over the next five years, you will have dozens of people move through your business in some capacity (team members, influencers, advisers, suppliers). Some will stay weeks, some will stay years.

Every single one of them will teach you something, so identify that learning, be grateful for their time and use that learning to help you – and others – in future.

You will find some of the most rewarding relationships in your life with these people, and have frequent moments of realising how very lucky you were and still are to have their help to build your business. You will enjoy genuinely pinch-me experiences with them; that you will reflect on together for years to come.

Don’t lose sleep over those who don’t work out. Almost without exception, you’ll go on to have good relationships with them in future and it is a source of immense joy to see people move on from your business to reach greater heights, knowing that The Remarkables Group was – if even in a small way – a stepping stone to helping them get there. 

4. You do not know it all

For the next 18 months, you’re going to be on a high as a rookie entrepreneur – the new business card, the flexibility (I won’t say freedom), the early wins.  

Take it from me, you don’t know what you don’t know.

In late 2013, you’ll hit a difficult patch in the business and will very seriously contemplate closing the whole thing down as you don’t think you’re cut out for this gig longterm. In fact, you’ll come to refer to this period as “Black November”… not dramatic at all, are you? 

Thankfully this experience prompts you to seek out people who do actually know what they’re doing – you assemble an advisory board and start working with a business coach.

**Spoiler Alert** Walking onstage with your tiny team at the B&T Awards to accept the award for Emerging Agency of the Year heralds the beginning of a new era in the business, with a much more humble and well-guided Lorraine at the helm.

5. Enjoy it

You are about to embark on an adventure that not everyone gets to have – either due to financial circumstances, their self-belief holding them back or because starting their own business just isn’t something that calls to them. Even less women – globally speaking – get to do what you’re about to do.

Yeah, it’s going to be tough.

But for every tough moment, there’s a wonderful moment when you realise that actually YES, it is all worth it.

These moments will include getting a thank you note from one of your team, winning a big client, feeling a great connection with a person you meet through the business, having someone compliment the work you guys are doing, award wins, travel opportunities, meeting global leaders…. There are so many ahead of you! 

So soak it up. And remember those moments in the tough times. 

 

Now what are you waiting for? Get to work!

I’ll be waiting for you,
Lorraine 2017