How Becoming a Corporate Refugee Is Good For You

Business owner, Corporate Refugee

Business owners are happier people

Business Owner, Corporate Refugee

Why scraping nasty chemicals from the bottom of boats beats working for a living

In 1984 I arrived in Sydney as a corporate refugee with my wife and daughter. Until that time, I’d trained and worked as a journalist on various newspapers in Holland. But it was time to change the corporate Smoke-filled, Alcohol-fuelled offices of a daily newspaper in Holland for the Sun-filled, Wholesome Great Outdoors of Australia. Specifically, I wanted to work on and around sailing boats on Sydney Harbour.

We had very little money when we got here (The Dutch money we brought with us, converted to Australian dollars, was precisely enough to buy an old Ford Cortina and pay the rental bond on a grotty little terrace house in Redfern, and that was just about it) and I needed to make sure I got a job quickly. So I jumped on the first thing I could and got a job at the old Dairy Farmers Factory in Ultimo, packing yoghurt beakers into cartons.

I worked there for a couple of months, and some of the gloss had started to come off our big immigration adventure, when I met up with an old friend at a typical Sydney backyard barbeque. I’ll never forget his words, he said: What are you doing working in that factory? Right now, while you’re not fully settled in yet, is the best opportunity you’ll ever have to create the future you’ve been dreaming of and the longer you keep working in that factory, the harder you’ll find it to get moving.

Walking on the dock of the Bay

He was right, the next day I walked out of the factory. I went down to the big yacht-marina in Rushcutters Bay, and simply asked anyone I saw around the docks if there was any work going.

I’ve not worked regular hours, taken home a regular wage, or been told what to do by a boss since.

Business Owner, Corporate Refugee

I won’t sit here and tell you it’s all been plain sailing (!!). Far from it. I’ve had to do some pretty unpleasant work from time to time (Scraping old antifoul paint (nasty chemical stuff that stops algae from growing on the bottom of boats) from the hulls of old trawlers in 40 degree Sydney heat is not one of my fondest memories), and I’ve stuffed up various contracts in those early years (The look of horror on the face of the owner of a boat I’d painted in entirely the wrong colour, still comes to mind from time to time), and I’ve naively been taken to the cleaners by unscrupulous customers at other times, but I’ve somehow managed to make a living, pay various mortgages and send the kids to school from 1984 to now.

Wild rollercoaster rides

Slowly but surely my work became a business and the business evolved away from boats to houses, it grew steadily and 20 years later I sold the building business to a junior partner. And in 2004 I started this thing I do now called business coaching and mentoring. And I feel good about myself and my life to date. It’s been a wild rollercoaster ride at times, but I am forever grateful to my old friend who shook me up at that barbeque in 1984. I am basically a happy chap.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, you see, I meet all kinds of people, those who work for The Man and those who work for themselves. And it’s become clear to me that people who work for themselves are nearly always happier than those who are employees, especially those who work for big companies. I believe this is because people are happiest when they feel they have agency, when they feel they are in control of their own lives.

As a business owner. when things go well you can pat yourself on the back for making that happen and when things go badly you know that the buck stops with you just as much, and that they have it in their hands to turn things around again. Business owners know they are largely responsible for the outcomes of their lives.

Dogs and electric shocks

Business owner, corporate refugee I read a book by Prof Martin Seligman a few years ago. Prof Seligman is the father of “Positive Psychology”. In the book Seligman describes a set of experiments run with dogs in the sixties. In the experiments dog A is given a light electrical shock every time a bell rings. The dog learns to associate the bell with the electrical shock, and knows the shocks cannot be escaped, it’s a fact of life. Then the dog is placed in a large crate that is divided in half. Half the floor is electrified and the bell is rung and the shock is applied. The dog could easily move to the other half of the floor to get away from the shock, but doesn’t and lies down on the floor shivering in fear.

Dog B is not conditioned beforehand and is also placed in the crate. The floor is electrified and the dog immediately moves to escape the shock.

The second dog has a sense of control over his life that the first one doesn’t anymore. Dog A has become depressed (if there is such a thing in dogs) and Dog B is full of vitality. Seligman referred to the condition of Dog A as “Learned Helplessness”.

I believe as humans working for large organisations we are also prone to “Learned Helplessness”. I am not saying that all people working for all companies have learned that they are helpless and are all depressed or that all depression comes as a result of having a job for a company. Obviously not. There are many different circumstances and many different strategies that people employ to maintain their vitality and sense of agency at work and in life.

The choice that changes everything

What I am saying, though, is that being a corporate refugee and starting your own business can absolutely be one of those strategies.

There is an enormous sense of reward and satisfaction that flows from building something you created yourself and that you are entirely responsible for. There is a wonderful sense of freedom in knowing that you can simply take the rest of today off if you choose to do so, but that you may actually choose not to do so, for whatever reason. You might be tired and grumpy and overworked and you’d love nothing better than go to the beach and veg out for the rest of the day, but you choose not to, because something else is at this moment more important to you.

That choice changes everything, because now you are at work, because you choose to be at work, not because your boss or your organisation has told you to be.

Business owners have agency

Clearly I am biased, I’ve worked for myself for more than 30 years and for the last 12 years supported those who do work for themselves. I can’t even remember anymore what it was like to be a journalist working for an editor in the hierarchy of a big corporate office. But I do know for a fact that none of the small business owners I’ve ever met show any of the symptoms of Learned Helplessness.

So, if you sometimes feel your job is draining your vitality, consider leaving the rat race, escape the corporate world and take control of your own life… The adventure is worth all the heartaches and frustrations … I promise you.

#FunInBusiness #Happiness #ControlOfYourLife #LeavingTheRatRace

Btw, If you’d like to know more about what it takes to get a business off the ground, you can download my first book: The Ten Truths for Raising a Healthy Bouncy Business for free!

FREE Download: The 10 Truths for Raising a Healthy, Bouncy Business

How to Raise a Healthy Bouncy Business

 

What Richard Branson Can Teach Us About Being Happier Human Beings & Business Owners

What Richard Branson Can Teach Us About Being Happier Humans & Business Owners

Let’s face it: You’re not Richard Branson

What Richard Branson Can Teach Us About Being Happier Humans & Business Owners

And that’s a good thing

Most small business owners I know, dream of being Richard Branson. I know, I’ve had those dreams, but I don’t anymore and I think you should start changing your dreams as well.

Let’s be clear, by any measure you’d like to put up, Sir Richard has done pretty well for himself. I saw a photo of him in an ambulance the other day with scrapes and blood all over his face, because he just hurtled himself down a massive hill on a mountain bike… I’m Dutch, I grew up on a bike, but I can assure you I never did stuff like that on my bikes, and he’s recently turned 66… Next week he’ll probably make another billion dollars on some new internet venture or donate some insane amount of money to a worthy cause or do a solo kayak trip to the South Pole and back. And to make matters worse it seems by all accounts, that he’s a truly nice guy as well.

As role models go, he makes me sick.

Really.

How are we ever meant to feel good about ourselves when we are forced to look up to people like that every day.

No matter what we do, we’ll never get that island in the Bahamas, nor look as good in a wet suit when in our late sixties. It’s just not going to happen.

Getting depressed

Pretty fair grounds to get depressed don’t you think?

Well no, actually. It turns out that feeling good about ourselves, about our lives and about our business has nothing to do with our achievements. Feeling good about our lives, feeling good about ourselves is about two things:

  • Relationships, because we are herd animals
  • The journey, because we are human beings

If Sir Richard Branson feels good about himself, about his life and his (many) businesses, it will be because of those two things only.

Firstly, as herd animals we actually are, we only get to feel really good about ourselves as a consequence of the relationships we develop with loved ones and family, with friends and with our community. The quality, intimacy and intensity of our interaction with the people around us leads us through life and allows us to feel happy.

Going on journeys that never end

And as the special animals called human beings we need to go on journeys. Journeys are about challenge and adventure and scary stuff; stepping out of your comfort zone and staying there. Journeys are never actually about getting there, sure you may need a rest every now and then and charge up the batteries from time to time, but the never ending adventure is where it’s at.

But the biggest journeys are not taken in a Kayak or on a mountain bike or in a hot air balloon.

The biggest journeys any of us can ever take, are in our own heads. There can be no greater journey for some people than overcoming the fear of public speaking, or for you as a small business owner, it may that learning to understand your Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss reports, are an ongoing struggle and source of discomfort.

For some of us the greatest journey we can ever undertake is to become a great employer of 1 or two people.

People and journey’s, your own personal journeys… Focus on those and you’ll feel just as good about yourself as Richard Branson does when he continues on his next crazy adventure… I promise you.

And if you ever need a self-assessment to give you some food for thought on whether you’re a small business owner who can juggle between the demands of life and business, here’s my treat for you:

Take the FREE Richard Branson Quiz!

You will get a score on my “Richard Branson” scale and I will send you back a short commentary on your score… I hope it will throw up some useful thoughts for you.

Richard Branson Quiz


Overwhelm and The Small Business Owner

chimp

October 2013

Overwhelm and the small business owner

How to get more of the good stuff done

If you enjoy this article click here to get a copy of one of the “The Ten Truths” books for business owners for free

The Oxford dictionary defines Overwhelm as: “Bury or drown beneath a huge mass of something”.

ape This is my definition: When we are in a state of overwhelm, we have a sense of being ill-equipped to deal with the demands that are placed on us, in other words, we feel like there is too much to deal with right now.

Being in a state of overwhelm is no picnic. Overwhelm is a major cause of stress, anxiety and depression in our society, and small business owners experience overwhelm more than most.

Being a Builder

A long time ago when I still had my building company, there was one feeling I experienced more than anything on a day to day basis, and that feeling was overwhelm.

There were so many different business development priorities jostling for attention in my brain that I simply didn’t know which one to focus on. On a daily basis, there would be financial management, marketing, customers, systemisation, planning, quality assurance, sales, staff, contractor issues, etc etc.

Some days this sense of overwhelm became so great that I would become quite paralysed and waste the whole of the day surfing the internet (remember this was over 10 years ago, before Facebook came along to make life even more distracting) Other times, especially when I was still actively “on the tools”, I would spend days doing stuff I could have delegated to the labourers on my team, instead of wielding the shovel and hammer myself.

Overwhelm stymied the development of my business and I know that if I’d managed to find a way to manage myself better, the business would have developed further and sooner.

The paradox of choice

paradox-choice It is a well-established fact that too much choice leads to overwhelm and decision paralysis. Here is a quote from a 2009 TED talk called “The paradox of choice” by professor Barry Schwartz:

“A colleague of mine got access to investment records from a gigantic mutual fund company of about a million employees and about 2,000 different workplaces. And what she found is that for every 10 mutual funds the employer offered, the rate of participation went down two percent. You offer 50 funds — 10 percent fewer employees participate than if you only offer five. Why? Because with 50 funds to choose from, it’s so damn hard to decide which fund to choose that you’ll just put it off until tomorrow.”

100 colours white

And I’m sure we’ve all experienced how much harder it is to decide on the new paint colour for our living room when the average paint store has a choice of 100 or more different shades of white alone.

As small business owners we are not unique in experiencing overwhelm, stress and anxiety, but there are some aspects to running a small business that are unique:

  1. We simply do not have the resources in time and money to be able to address all the business development priorities that are vying for our attention; they will always have to be culled ruthlessly.
  2. But generally we don’t feel well enough equipped to be able to decide what to cull.
  3. And besides that, even if we did, most of the pressing issues relate to aspects of business that are well outside our specific skill=set (The skill-set that is the foundation on which we started the business: carpentry, architecture, cooking, widget-making, etc.)

This is the reality of being a small business owner: more stuff to do than you can poke a stick at, all of it really important, but most of it out of your comfort zone.

Procrastination

No wonder we procrastinate.

My clients will often tell me that they are the world’s worst procrastinators and that they are lazier than anyone they’ve ever met.

But laziness has nothing to do with it, more often than not procrastination and “time wasting” comes from a lack of clarity about what the most important thing to do next is and feeling insecure that we’d know how to do it if we did know.
tool-man

Besides procrastination, the other default response we have to this sense of overwhelm is to pick up our trusted hammer (scale rule, cook’s knife or widget machine) and do some more hammering instead.

Do you recognise any of that?

Do you spend more time than you should “hammering” and not enough time addressing the business development issues? And when you do put down the hammer, do you find yourself procrastinating and not getting as much done as you think you should?

Trust me, most of us do, all the time.

The way out

So what is the way out? Given that I don’t believe in easy answers and one-size-fits-all solutions, let me give you a 5-ingredient recipe to put on the stove and experiment with that will start to take the sting out of this challenge for you:

stop-sign Step 1: Stop beating yourself up, you are not the world’s laziest business owner. (I am… obviously). Seriously, start by accepting that the challenge you have in this area is really common, we all face it every day, it’s normal.

Step 2: Write down what the major business development priorities are for you at a high level (marketing, cashflow, etc)

Step 3: Ask yourself this question: If there was one priority I could do something with today that would move my business forward one single step, what priority would that be? Lock in the first answer that comes to mind, trust your gut feeling on this.

Step 4: Ask yourself a second question: What specific action(s) can I take today in relation to that business development priority that will make a real difference in my business?

Step 5: Block out a specific time in your diary today to carry out that specific action(s)

Experiment

What makes this recipe such a nice one to experiment with is this:

  1. That there are a few skills you have achieved mastery in, “beating yourself up” is one of those, you don’t need to practice it anymore, it wastes precious creative energy and time, and makes you feel like crap.
  2. Actually forcing yourself to make a choice between all the different priorities is challenging, but your gut feeling (the unconscious) will actually know the answer, and you can trust it.
  3. Breaking the major priority area down into a small, specific action that you can block out a specific time in your diary for, can make it a lot easier to cut through the overwhelm and help you focus.

If you get yourself into a habit (and remember habits take 28 days of consecutive practice to cement) to go through this process every day, I promise you that your business and your life will never be the same again.

Cheers,
Roland Hanekroot

Call me if you’d like to explore how I can help you have less Overwhelm and more FUN in your business and build a business that sustains you for years to come. A great first step is to come along to one of my monthly Small Business Masterminds workshops… follow this link