I don’t know if I made a conscious decision. Maybe it was something I had been building towards and it simply spilled out of me, but I can say for certain letting go was one of the biggest achievements of my life.
Picture the scene: you live in a small apartment, you’ve started a business with your husband, you have three energetic boys under seven and spend every Saturday night singing to diners at a restaurant in the city. Every hour of the day is filled with invoices, orders, playdates, cleaning Lego from the floor and between my toes, remembering to defrost something for dinner.
I’d often arrive home towards midnight after an evening on my feet and think about the future and where I wanted to be five years from now and everything I needed to do to get there. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but juggling three boys was the perfect training for my role as a leader and CEO.
As a business owner, the growth of your business relies on your ability to step back and enable, encourage and support a team who can take your vision to the next level. This can be the tricky part – relinquishing control of the baby you’ve nurtured.
Freedom is important
This isn’t said very often, but the freedom you gain when sharing the load is really important. It was 2006 and my marriage had broken down, my business had collapsed and I was exhausted from trying to hold my family, marriage and business together. I was on the verge of a breakdown.
I had to make a huge decision, which to this day saved my life. It was a moment that stopped me from going over the edge. I left my three boys with my parents, left my business, said goodbye to my (almost) ex-husband and left Australia for Europe.
You could call it my Eat.Pray.Love moment.
I thought I was a failure and had failed my children. The weight of my decision and leaving my boys pushed me down, but somewhere deep down I knew it was something I needed to do. I ventured across great cities on my own. Ordered food and had mini-conversations in a different language – an escapism washed over me.
As I passed the slow days with sunshine and phone calls with my boys, I slowly started to realise how much I had been doing everyday. I had no time for myself and my self-worth was rock bottom. Everyday that rolled by helped me clarify what I wanted to achieve and who I wanted to be. I went home to my boys feeling motivated, positive, committed and full of love.
By creating a strong team that shares your values and vision, you’re fostering a community of people who’re enabled to thrive and grow. You’re also giving yourself the gift of time and time is freedom. Freedom to dream, create, invest and be.
Your kids are unique and each bring something different to the table
As a small business owner, you become the marketer, the salesperson, the manufacturer, the operations manager and balancer of the books. You are a machine spinning plates and you know your business inside out.
When the time comes to hire a salesperson or marketer, the temptation to get involved in their day to day is incredibly tempting – after all, you’re the expert and the founder! The same can be said when watching your kid tie their shoelace, learning to write or building with bricks.
Aside from initial instruction and guidance, you know you should leave them to it and allow them to figure it out and problem solve or get creative. I remember biting my tongue as I watched my sons’ play guitar. I wanted to say, how about holding it this way or why don’t you try moving your fingers like this?
But ultimately, sitting back and observing was a hugely rewarding experience. They took a different approach, they made their own style and created their own rhyme and as a business leader, this freedom is important. You’ve provided the toolkit – let them discover themselves in their new role. Their unique approach is why you hired them.
You learn more about your values
You’ve already established rules, boundaries and a deep relationship with your child and then a curveball comes your way. When faced with these experiences, you suddenly begin to appreciate the years of negotiating and balancing with your little one. You weigh up your options and explore new territory and suddenly you get it.
I was asked this question at a conference once and I spoke about the delicate situation and that when I started my business I replayed this moment and knew exactly what kind of leader I wanted to be and the values I’d want my team to share.
Every human has values and maybe some have a moment like this that translates into their business in some way. For me, it helped me appreciate the importance of acknowledging that I must see every person and provide an opportunity that allows them to be themselves and live the life they want. That means working the hours that suit them when it suits them; enabling them to own their shit and carve out their own future.
Every experience shapes you and for me, motherhood made me who I am today. It is only now, after some very dark days in my recent past, can I reflect on my journey and consider how much of an impact it has had on my new business. For the first time in my life I am doing my life on my terms and yes, it’s taken a few years, but I’m proof that it can happen.