"No amount of practising tough conversations can ever prepare you when you are standing eye to eye with a parent whose son has killed himself at the age of 27." - Daniel Allen
“That’ll save us”
This was the line that Ed or I would say to each other during the first year of business whenever our phones would make the cash register sound letting us know that we’d made a sale.
It was always said with a cheeky grin and usually with an eye roll and was always the perfect way to break any tension that we may have been feeling, for any number of reasons in the Start-Up journey.
That mantra was simply a light-hearted quip, but behind the line was a much deeper concern that we both felt; we may fail as a business. It was not something that we explicitly said to one another, but we both knew the underlying meaning.
Fear of failure is a valid concern and one that everyone has felt before. But it’s an important feeling to embrace because, without that hint of self-doubt, you will quickly become complacent. Complacency is not something that presents itself until you’re left standing in the ashes of what could have been a great business.
Fear of failure is just one of the many challenges that we’ve faced.
On March 16th, 2020, TradeMutt turns 2 years old.
That means we’ve outlasted 90% of all other start-ups that were founded in the time that we have existed.
The thing is, we only show people the good stuff. All the marketing is upbeat, we celebrate the wins when they happen, and our general vibe is positive and uplifting.
No one sees the shit. And believe me, in a growing and scaling a start-up business, there’s lots of shit.
So, as we enter the terrible two’s, instead of reflecting on all the wins, let's get real and shine a light on some of our biggest challenges.
ARGUMENTS – Ed and I argue. We’re both passionate. We’re both strongly opinionated and we both have non negotiable's. Neither of us are afraid to express our views when our values come into question. The level of respect that we have for each other means that we both know when the other one isn’t mucking around.
This is a good thing. When it comes to other things like design, strategy and general decision making, we often have differing opinions. When this happens, you could cut through the tension with a butter knife. Everyone around us can feel it too. But the more we practice arguing with each other, the better we have become at it.
We now have a company charter in place with protocols, guidelines around effective communication and even a code word for when shit gets real. We’re not perfect at it, but we’re certainly working on it.
EXPECTATION AND SAYING NO – This has been a hard one to navigate. When you have a little bit of success, suddenly people get in contact from all directions with an expectation that we should be doing more than what we currently are. Only those closest to us understand the amount of work that goes into running this thing. As awesome as it is that people love TradeMutt and want to support us in various different ways, sometimes we just have to say no. This is hard, especially when people come to you with such well-meaning and positive intentions. For the record, Ed is far better at saying No than I am.
BUSINESS AND FINANCES - I'm not a numbers guy. Ed is definitely the numbers guy out of the two of us. Even still, it's not a strong point for either of us. The number one place that any business will fall down is by not getting the numbers right. But far too often people are too proud to ask for help.
Bugger that! That's one of the first things we did because we needed to understand that what we were doing was sustainable and that we were operating within our means. There are much more qualified people than us out there who can help with that kind of stuff and we would have been mad not to seek out that help. This is a huge lesson - don't do it alone. Just ask for help.
TOUGH CONVERSATIONS – Given the nature of our business being suicide prevention, naturally, we have had some hard conversations. No amount of practising tough conversations can ever prepare you when you are standing eye to eye with a parent whose son has killed himself at the age of 27. This is shit.
But when this happens, you need to read the situation and understand that the person you’re talking to needs to get this out. In my experience, while I have absorbed a lot of grief from other people, I know that it will be far easier for me to decompress with others around me than for the person struggling with the permanent loss. This is where communication and strong relationships is crucial.
MANAGING OUR OWN SHIT – Running a social enterprise focused around mental health and suicide prevention does not mean we are in any way perfect or immune from having our own struggles. We too have relationships to manage, financial obligations to meet and generally have lives to lead outside work. How do we manage ourselves while also managing a rapidly growing business? Quite simply, communication.
ED AND I KNOW AS MUCH ABOUT EACH OTHERS FAMILY AS WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT EACH OTHER.
This is an insight that I came to realise when I was planning this article which for me, was quite profound. It highlights the depth of our communication and is at the very core of our brand mission. To start a conversation. When we ourselves are as open with each other as what we are encouraging others to be, you feel supported, you feel like you’re not alone, and it immediately becomes easier to manage what’s in front of you.
The way we manage our own shit is the very essence of what we preach. Open and honest communication. Without having solid and trusting relationships in our business, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.
March 16th will always be a special day for us. We hope that this birthday will be one of many more to come, and we will always continue to work as hard as we do to make sure the dream become reality. But at the two year mark in business, we think it’s important to practice what we preach and give people an insight into the real challenges we face.
Everyone faces challenges, but not enough people are talking about them. It’s not the challenges that we face in our lives that define us. It’s the lessons we learn from those challenges, only after first taking ownership of the role that we play, accepting responsibility and doing everything we can to not make those same mistakes again.
Hopefully, some of the things we've touched on here are useful. Our number one rule is to keep it genuine and hopefully by shining a light onto some of our challenges it helps you to know that whatever challenges you might be facing are normal.
If you can take on one piece of advice - communication is key, in business, in relationships and in life.