The gift of time and using it wisely

As we hurtle towards the end of another decade, I’ve become acutely aware of time; more specifically the importance of using time wisely. One of the biggest challenges as a business founder is the constant juggling of time and priorities – your to-do list is never done; your ambition never wavers.

So, as the year draws to a close, have I used 2019 time wisely?

Building my own support structure

This sounds complicated but is one of the most straight forward lessons I’ve learnt this year; waiting for permission or comfort will cost you. I’ve always been comfortable making decisions and driving change on behalf of clients, but sometimes waver when it comes to Bretom. By building a support system, I’ve created space – time to think, time to breathe and time to learn – to keep me focussed on the things that matter so that the business can continue to go from strength to strength.

If you’ve got a world to change, support yourself first. Clear time in the diary for whatever you need. Take yourself out for lunch. To a gallery. Catch up with someone you’ve not seen for a while. Whatever clears your head, do it. Even if you have to do it by yourself. Me? I walk.

Leading by example

‘Entrepreneurial spirit’ is a phrase I often see in job ads. Loosely translating to creativity, vision and collaboration, these are all traits I cherish and strive for. I’ve previously loved being indispensable to clients; building my own worth by the feedback I receive from those around me. But the world of an entrepreneur is different to that of an employee.

Gold stars and annual appraisals are a thing of the past. Instead, self-evaluation and holding myself accountable have been my focus. Having also recognised that clients particularly value my creative direction, challenger mentality and inquisitive nature, I’ve focused on the delivery of these valuable skills. In turn, I’ve trusted my team to deliver more of the supporting work. It can’t be solely about me if Bretom is to reach its potential.

Importantly, none of this comes at the expense of Bretom’s essence, what we stand for, what we offer or the experience that clients have when they partner with us.

So whilst you can’t create time, through clarity and focus, you can be more effective.

Cementing our values-based culture

As the ever inspiring Ella sings: ‘T’aint what you do (it’s the way that you do it)’.

Almost by definition, business growth is interacting with people who you don’t know. So having entered a ‘scale-up’ phase, it’s been integral to spend time exploring how we define and share our culture and brand story more effectively with people and businesses who don’t know yet know us.

By creating a culture that embodies my core values, our people, prospects and clients understand exactly what Bretom stands for. Time well spent as it’s something, we think, sets us apart.

Helping others, but demand reciprocity

This has been a hard one. For me, helping others without expectations is a virtue (and I’d go as far as to argue a requirement of being human!). But I’ve increasingly realised that not everyone plays by the same rule book.

Business relationships are built around reciprocal actions. Time, knowledge and skills are traded for comparable content or fees. Some people are comfortable being ‘takers’, but I’m not. I’ve therefore consciously allocated time for charitable passions or adding value to developing relationships where I believe the short-term investment of time will (hopefully) pay dividends in due course.

Wasting time building one-way relationships is frustrating. One of the major reasons people start their own business is to develop the freedom to use time as they see fit. So, however you wish to spend your time, do it consciously and make sure you’re clear about what you’re getting in return.

Recognising those around you

Many managers (myself included at times…) fall into the trap of thinking that they run the entire ship; the puppet master holding the strings. In reality, it’s those around you who deliver service, value and growth. Danny Morel, author of The Resilience Roadmap stated “People means [that] every person who works for you is equal. I don’t let anyone call me “boss”. No matter how big you get, remember: you’re nothing without your team.”

“the power of perspective and time should not be underestimated”

Earlier this year I took five weeks off from Bretom to travel to Japan and the Philippines. (I know, I know ‘alright for some’ but…) As a sole business founder and owner the potential cost of downing tools was terrifying. So much so, I’ve not taken a significant break since starting the business 4 years ago despite the mountain of evidence that I’ve read about the importance of rest and recuperation. I was worried how I would feel, the impact it would have on our clients and how Bretom team would operate without my guiding hand.

Whilst it wasn’t totally smooth sailing, by focusing on fulfilling the needs of our clients and tying back to the cultural values I referred to previously, the team did an outstanding job. It was a wakeup call to me to make the empowerment of those around me a focus of our strategy for 2020 (which I had plenty of time to think about whilst sipping a cocktail on the beach…)

Take time to recognise and value the people who support you and your clients, and you can’t go too wrong.

Dreaming bigger

Linked to the above, taking a significant chunk of time out of the year to follow personal interests has dramatically affected my ambition. To create something of value for our clients, I need to be passionate about the work we do. Creativity (both strategic and design led) needs constant stimulation and innovation; two things that ignite when you get a change of perspective and have time to think.

I now recognise that the power of perspective and time should not be underestimated. It is easy to fall into the trap of ‘getting things done’ from one day to the next. Taking a step away from your routine gives you a chance to reflect on the bigger picture; why you became a business owner and where you want to go next.

As an entrepreneur, we get the golden ticket to follow our dreams, but those dreams can only become a reality if we have the time to ensure the pursuit of our passions and perseverance is being channeled in the right direction.

So with a short time remaining this year, take some time to reflect, give, receive, recognise and dream.  After all, there will always be ways to make more money, but time is a finite resource so use the year ahead wisely.

where next…

From start-up to scale-up: my personal perspective>