I Am Lucky, Startups Are Hard

A week or two ago Jeff​ posted on facebook briefly about the ups and downs of building a business. He doesn’t know it, but I must have read that post 20 times or more. Now, after a week with some of our team in San Francisco for Inman Connect, I have found myself thinking about this a lot.

Startups are hard. That’s not a complaint, it’s just a genuine and honest observation (albeit perhaps an obvious one). The ups and downs can be pretty wild – and some of the downs can be straight up scary.

Facing My Fears – A Turning Point

Both David and I have been travelling from Australia to the the US and Canada since Jan 2012 to work on our business. Until mid last year, I used to fly home really happy with the progress we had made. Each time, however, in my dark little place I don’t talk about, I wondered to myself if that was the last trip I would make.

I told not a soul. I never had the courage to tell anyone. I couldn’t face the idea that I was allowing myself to fear failure. And I did fear it. I feared it a lot. For a time I knew it was having a less than positive impact on me and our potential.

My wife knew, I’m sure, though she never said so, but she knew. You can tell the way someone cares for you and supports you when you are clearly a little fragile, but she never confronted it. Perhaps it was for fear that the little house of cards that can be the confidence of the entrepreneur may come tumbling down.

I’ve come to realise that this all changed in the back half of last year – the catalyst was two very sad personal events. I took them both very hard. But if there was a positive to come out of them, it was that I think stopped fearing failure. I still respect failure, but I no longer wanted to let it hold me back. You get one swing, you should make it the best one you have.

Moving My Family To The United States 

With that, we (wife and two kids) made the decision to relocate to Chicago for awhile. We had a return date when we took off… it was changed… twice. 3 months quickly turned into 11. We moved here with 5 suitcases – nothing else. It was what I needed. It was what the business needed. It was a great adventure for my family. It was also hard. People do it every day, but it’s hard.

It’s been a year in which I’ve learned a lot about myself. I learned I can push myself harder than I thought. I’ve learned about my limitations and how to navigate them… and I’m still learning about them.

We have had a lot of highs this year – and this week has been no exception. The funny thing about startups, it how your goals change. If I was told a year ago what was to happen this week, I would had trouble believing it, but also would have feared screwing it up over the next 12 months. One of the big learnings is you can do more than you think you can. If you think it can’t be done – it won’t be. Dare to dream, allow yourself to believe that you can achieve more than you think and you give yourself a shot, a chance… sometimes it’s all you need.

Startups are hard. Startups are stressful. Doing it with great people that share your vision & enthusiasm makes it so much easier.

It Is Now Clear To Me That I Am Lucky

I am lucky I married up. My wife is a list maker. List makers like structure, predictability and to know what’s next. In the past few years she has had none of these things. For much of the last year she has not even known where we would be living in 6 months or a year. Sure there’s been moments when we’ve both said ‘what are we doing?‘ but she has never lost the faith and that takes guts… especially for a list maker. She is a brilliant mum and simply a great partner. I would have achieved nothing without her – she is my real secret weapon. Lucky.

I am lucky that I get to do this with my best mate. We’ve known each other since we were 11, we are now 42 and have had a business together since we were 29. Some days you think it makes it harder, but really it makes it so much easier and the highs are like nothing else when you share them with someone that is so much a part of who you are. David, no matter what anyone else says, you’re alright – I proudly claim you as my mate every day.

I am lucky we have the right partner. We met, by total chance, one of the best guys in the real estate industry and he took a risk on us and what he saw. It’s more than that though – we didn’t know it at the time, it only became obvious as we came to know him that we simply could not have partnered with a better person, both professionally and personally. Jeff you are one of a kind. When you and your family sit for dinner tonight, that is my ‘thankful for’.

I am lucky to have great support. Jeff also brought with him someone that had over 10 years experience supporting customers in the real estate industry on a SaaS platform. Now that WAS lucky. We had a turn key support operation ready to switch on when the time came. Lucky… again. Juli, you jumped straight in as we went through some amazing growth. It was virtually seamless. You are a star.

I am lucky to have a great new team member. I spent much of this past week being reminded, by anyone and everyone who knows us, how lucky we are with the most recent member to join our team. This past week she demonstrated that she is a total Pro. She has been with us 4 weeks and handled meetings this week like she had been with us since the start. Laura, you have slotted right into our team as if you were always there.

Luck Is A Byproduct Of Hard Work

Nobody knows more than my family and my team that I have struggled to “turn off” in the past 10 months. Partly this is because I believe so much in what we are doing, partly because I am working with such a great team and want to make the most of every opportunity we have, and partly because I seem to have some kind of OCD it seems. Mostly though, it’s because I really do love my job. This can make it hard on those around you — your family and your team. Startups can be hard on everyone.

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last year, but the most important thing I have learned is to not fear failure. Work hard, focus on your goal/s, be true to your vision, your product and your customers. If you do these things you leave no room for doubts over whether you did enough. And cut yourself a break, more often than not, luck is simply a byproduct of hard work.

There’s still more to do, there always is – but I wanted to take a moment to recognise, for our team, what we have achieved so far, to celebrate the moment, this high. It doesn’t always feel like this. It’s best to soak it all in when it does.


footnote: This started as a facebook post, but it didn’t feel quiet right – I’ve never written a personal blog post, I may never again. It probably doesn’t really fit on this blog – but I have no other. As I re-read it now, it may be some kind of therapy. Certainly it was written as much for me as it was for those that are mentioned. If you read this far thank you for indulging me.

    1. Derek Overbey August 10, 2015
      • Phil Kells August 10, 2015
    2. Ginger Wilcox August 10, 2015
      • Phil Kells August 10, 2015
    3. Warwick August 11, 2015
      • Phil Kells August 11, 2015
    4. Dave Burkett August 13, 2015
      • Phil Kells August 18, 2015
    5. Zoe November 19, 2015

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