Happy birthday to me

Joseph Merz

It was my 30th birthday almost two weeks ago now. It was wonderful, I spent the day tucked up in the mountains and much to my surprise, was showered with gifts – despite only inviting two people. I felt very loved indeed.

When the hiking and eating was over, I took some quiet time to myself to reflect on the lessons I’d learned in the previous (almost) 15 years of running my own businesses. I thought I’d share a few:

Lesson 1: Passion really is the key to making businesses successful

There are two primary things that I believe to be fundamental to making businesses successful. The first is passion. Why do you need passion? You need it because you will face unbelievably difficult times, I can promise you that. I could tell you a number of funny (well, they’re funny now!) stories about difficult times I’ve faced. When you do face these however, nothing else is capable of carrying you through. Not necessity. Not goals. Not a super morning routine. Not even family. Sure, these things can help but without passion the tough times will very likely become too much to contend with.

With passion, you tend to take the good with the bad. You tend to enjoy every moment of the journey – even if you only enjoy it deep down.

Lesson 2: Your people are the start and the end of your business

I can’t stress this one enough. Your people are everything. It’s really not that complicated: find passionate people who share your vision and look after them. They truly are the start and the end of your business. Think about what they want and need, not what you want them to want and need. Give them more than they expect – don’t be afraid to be generous even if it’s detrimental to your own position. If you’ve picked the right type of people they won’t abuse it, they’ll return the kindness in one of the best ways they possibly can – with loyalty.

This is a hard one when you’re building a completely new idea – like a model that’s never been tested before because it’s all theoretical. You might sell your vision to someone at the beginning but as that vision evolves, it may no longer appeal to them. That’s a good thing, it means you’re evolving (and they’re likely evolving too). Send everyone off in love!

Lesson 3: Businesses evolve, make sure everyone understands that

Like people, businesses evolve*. Especially young businesses. Make sure everyone understands that. Never apologise for taking your business where it needs to go, even if that’s totally different to where it started out. The right people will be along for the ride and will get the same kicks out of it as you do.

Lesson 4: Timing is the other key and that’s why you need passion

I mentioned before that one of the key things to be successful was passion. Well the other is timing. It’s said to be the most influential part of whether a business is successful or not. Timing’s not an issue if you get it right, but true entrepreneurs rarely do. They’re so pumped about their ideas that they just go at them like a bull at a gate, and the passion drives them to continue this until the timing is right… Never with a serious thought of giving up.

Lesson 5: Never compare yourself

The media and social media will continue to spread lies or at best, one sided stories. In the most difficult times you’ll read of overnight successes who have done something similar to what you’re wanting to do. What they won’t tell you is that the majority of them are overnight success stories, 10 years in the making. Save yourself a world of unnecessary pain and never compare yourself to anyone else.

Lesson 6: Your health should always be your main priority

It reminds me of the airline protocol, when oxygen masks drop from the roof of the cabin, put one on yourself before helping anyone else… You’re no good to anyone dead!

I began working 80 to 100 hours a week when I founded a communications agency at the ripe old age of 16. I loved what I was doing and was hugely passionate about it, so it didn’t seem excessive at the time.

However, I continued to do this on small projects after I sold this business and stupidly it became a habit. It wasn’t until I developed a bowel disease and became so sick I could barely walk that I asked myself “Why have your ignored your health for this long?” And that question leads me to my last lesson…

Lesson 7: Never be afraid to ask yourself ‘Why?’

Some of the best developments I’ve had in my life to date have come from asking the question “Why?”. “Why do I want this outcome?” “Why do I feel the need to help this person?” “Why do we always want more than we need?” “Why is everyone so obsessed with growth?”

Why is an incredibly powerful word and by asking it to yourself you are challenging the status quo, not to mention any preconceived ideas that you may have been holding on to for a long time.

There are many more but these are all I (and likely you) have time for!

Happy Monday.


* Evolution should not to be confused with pivoting.

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