2. Don’t worry about starting in a small, modest and slightly embarrassing way.  


"They think you're mad," a friend of mine said when I left London to come here to do... something. I laughed. There was a pause. "No really, they're not saying it in front of you but some of them do think you are mad." I realised he meant mad as in insane. I poured some more wine and took a stiff slug of it.

I used to do consultancy. My clients included Reuters (never ask me about Reuters) the BBC, Diageo, J&B Whiskey (ask me about them any time - lovely clients), BT, British Airways and many more. Now I run a tiny company in a backstreet in Prague and we, as my mother said vaguely recently, "Make handbags or something?" Which of these has proved more exciting, worthwhile and given me a higher sense of esteem and achievement? No contest.

When you leave something "proper" to do something far less proper - and let's face it, most creative endeavours are seen as pretty improper unless you're very established and have a bodyguard and an expensive outfit to prove it - people will be taken aback. Unable to understand it, and perhaps feeling even that it's a bit of a comment on their own very different choices, they will tend to make fun, sneer, and even tell you you're mad. Though with any luck not to your face. If you let this shake or upset you, or to dent your confidence, you'll never get past that first step. You'll quickly be scurrying back saying, as someone else in my family is apt to say whenever she even thinks momentarily about anything vaguely adventurous, "I must have been having a little nervous breakdown."

You're not mad, you're not having a breakdown. You're awake, aware and you just saw a break in the wall and beyond it a beautiful garden with flowers and bees and hedgehogs and ickle fairies and... okay, so you just maybe saw a glimpse of a life in which you didn't have to dread going into work. That's not madness, that's hope - and optimism.

So ignore the laughter - it comes from misunderstanding and maybe a little bit of fear. You may well have to begin with something very modest and it won't look impressive and no, you probably won't be attracting VC funding in your first year (and thank your guardian angel for that). You will most likely have to be content with small achievements to begin with and they may look like next to nothing to outside observers. We hardly even talk about our first project together here (Tarot of Prague was the second one). But building anything involves taking steps. The first ones are tiny, but later they get bigger.

And you know what? If you're at the very beginning and almost embarrassed to show people what you've done so far, enjoy it. I've built businesses twice now (kind of three times) and it's that first crazy, dreamy, "here we go" period at the very beginning that's one of the very most enjoyable. (Almost) anything's possible.

Hints and Tips
Do NOT borrow or in any other way raise money merely in order to make what you're doing look more convincing and of higher status to other people. If you're embarrassed by starting off in your own flat or in a teeny back room somewhere just get over it. Money thrown at glitzy premises that you don't need, or at equipment that won't get used is just money thrown away. The worst of all is money thrown at employees that you won't really be fully employing (employees are, as my accountant once explained to me, THE most serious and scary expense on a company's books - I mean, you can't resell them can you?) If you really can't stop yourself from doing this because your own ego screams for it - get yourself an Alex. One of the first things Alex did when we began working together was ask endlessly, "Do we really need this?" If you don't have a real person asking that then invent an imaginary friend.

Basically, if you don't need it, don't get it. Because every bit of money saved will buy you time - and what a new creative business needs above all else is time.

Links to this post

What next?

You can also bookmark this post using your favorite bookmarking service:

Related Posts by Categories