“Can't stop, addicted to the shindig” …… “This life is more than just a read-through.”
The words in the title above are the first and last lines from one of my favourite band's song "Can't Stop" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and appropriate as it's where I am at and the dilemma I have as I head into the last year of my 10-year plan!
On the 4th ofJanuary 2015, after 12 years, I left the security of employment at Volvo Trucks to start my own consultancy business. I had a 10-year plan all drafted out, with a clear set of short and medium-term goals.
Now as I head into the last year of that 10 year plan with my 10th year of trading starting on the 5th of Jan 2024, I'll have to decide whether I implement said plan.
But first, what have I learned and experienced in those first 9 years of self-employment.
It's not been easy.
- You must be resilient, have tenacity, gumption and staying power.
- You have to pick yourself up, dust yourself down after a fall.
- You need to get out there, meet lots of people across diverse industries sectors and build connections, create networks, to share with, learn from, reach out to when in need. Build trusting relationships, as your network will refer you to their clients for your services, but ensure you reciprocate. It's also good to have others to celebrate with, now and again. An example where building networks and relations can lead to, in the last 6 months along with 4 likeminded business partners, I've started another company CBASS - (more on that in the near future),
- You need to have a strong partner in your personal life, not just for support but to keep you in check (ensuring you stay on plan), but also to remind you, there's more to life than just working all the time!
- Be forward thinking – I believe one of my key strengths as I'm always asking questions, looking forward and trying to predict and determine what will transpire with the aim of being ahead of the curve.
- You need to be flexible as nothing goes strictly to plan. So, take charge and make things happen, rather than waiting for things to happen.
- At the same time, you need to be consistent, in approach, in attending events, in delivery standards, process and procedures as the customer ultimately buys you, and they prefer consistency.
- You need to take the odd risk but try to make these calculated risks. i.e. Back the right horse. One of my best clients today, a few years ago when they had just started out, couldn't pay me for a number of months, however I knew they had a great chance of success, and I fully believed in their aspirations, we just had to open the right doors, so I continued to fully support them throughout that period and they are now thriving.
- Step out of your comfort zone and keep learning, After starting to mentor business people during lockdown, during the later part of 2022 and 2023 I spent 9 months studying. In October I qualified as an Effective Coach and Mentor (ILM Level 5).
- When out and about and in play as such, i.e. engaging with customers, associates, peers and networks, always be confident and stay positive.
- "Pay it Forward" volunteer your time and do things for free, pro bono as it will lead to new experiences and opportunities for you to grow. I mentor a few senior managers pro bono and also am an Enterprise Adviser working with a local secondary school.
- Build additional income/revenue streams- don't have all your eggs in one basket. During 2020 Covid lockdown, like many in professional services, I went for 12 weeks without any income or work and it was a tough year. Therefore since then I have explored and developed additional revenue streams. I'm now a director of 3 different businesses and also have an employed contract with Northumbria University (Associate Lecturer on the Help to Grow Management Programme).
Back to my 10-year plan.
The objective was to be able to retire on my 57th birthday (23rd January 2025).
Note the words "able to". To be honest I don't know if I could walk away from work, and never need to earn a salary/wage/income again from that point in time, however I am pretty confident that I could manage with a few personal adjustments and subject to there being no world-wide major economic disasters in the next few year too.
However, what would I do with my time?
As I really enjoy what I do. Akin to the first line in the lyrics in the title of this blog. "Can't stop, addicted to the shindig".
But then, as Billy Connolly once said, "this is not a dress rehearsal" and you're only here once, Hence, the last set of the chili peppers lyrics, "This life is more than just a read-through."
So, for the next 9 months or so, I'll be looking forward and planning my next 10 years.
If I bump into you, I'll likely ask you, "What are your plans?", as I need to learn from others, in how they balance work / life's aspirations and goals and what retirement means/looks like for them. There's an impending implementation date for my new 10 year plan, which starts on the 5th of January 2025 and I'm keen to find and pick the appropriate path before that date.
What will that 10-year plan be?
Today I'm not fully sure, and I'll update you in due course. But I won't be hanging up my business consultancy gloves and disappearing off the business networking circuit, that's for sure.