When you succeed in business and life, the external persona you display is often lauded and held up as a beacon for others to emulate. What you often don’t hear is the other side of the coin: the loneliness, isolation, pressure, and uncertainty that comes with being an entrepreneur.
I am an optimist. Perhaps I was built that way or learnt it during my formative years. Despite my (annoyingly) optimistic nature, I have learned that the entrepreneurial path is anything but smooth or linear. In fact, the squiggly road of business is full of hills, potholes, and hidden chasms. The three hardest I have encountered over the past 14 years are as follows:
We (Emily and I) moved to New Zealand in 2009 from the UK. We didn’t know anyone here but had visited seven years earlier and fallen in love with the people, the culture, and of course, the land. We decided to retrench ourselves to New Zealand as we felt there was no better country to bring our children to.
In 2010, we decided that the time was right for kids, my business was starting to take off, and we were in a good place as a couple in our newfound home. What could possibly go wrong?
During that year, however, we suffered three miscarriages.
The toll was enormous. The barrage of tests showed nothing, and we were put on “high risk.” We had no support because our families were in the UK, and we did not yet have much of a network in New Zealand. This was exacerbated by the demands of the business I had to build and run.
Fortunately, in January 2011, Ethan, our son, was born.
My business was going well. I had four full-time staff members. I relied on one, in particular, as he had the best knowledge and expertise in our industry.
Then, in August 2012, Emily attended a box-fit class and returned with a lump on her neck. We thought it was nothing, but she decided to go to A&E, just in case.
Emily didn’t come out of the hospital for weeks and weeks after that day. She had been diagnosed with advanced Thyroid Cancer and had to have a nine-hour operation to have it removed. I will never forget the phone calls I had to make to loved ones that evening and the feelings of fear, hopelessness, and isolation I felt during that time. Having Ethan, a business, and a wife that really needed me gave me the motivation to get up, face the world, and get on with things, despite the almost impossible urge to stay in bed.
Two days later, my key staff member told me he was leaving for a competitor.
I have never been closer to shutting up shop and looking for a job. One of the differences between success and failure is an entrepreneur’s willingness to get up and face the world even when everything is crumbling around them.
By the time Covid hit, we were an established business with a large book of customers, all of whom were on retainer contracts. In April 2020, however, the country went into lockdown, and panic ensued. Over March and April, we had screeds of contacts from dozens of customers panicking about paying their staff, let alone our contracts.
At Pure SEO, we live by the value of ‘Do the Right Thing’, so our response was obvious. We paused the clients’ contracts and continued to do the work for them regardless. During April, we were $400k down in revenue for the month, and it looked like we would have to make a bunch of redundancies for the first time ever. Fortunately, over time, most clients returned and many more signed up with us, which allowed us to emerge from the pandemic relatively unscathed.
The road to success is bumpy, lonely, and sometimes impossibly hard. It is definitely not a job for everyone. I often reflect and consider if I went back knowing what I know now, would I do it all again. The answer is an emphatic yes!