by Gary Knight

Good Morning Good People

As promised the first of my blogs this month focuses on my own personal journey, from a life in the corporate world to the new horizons of running my own business- Flippin’Eck Ltd. Apologies in advance but it feels more like a short story than a blog, but please stay with me on this.

Now I am fully aware that millions of people have trodden this path before & followed their own dream/passion, so this is not an instruction manual or a ‘How to Succeed Book ‘, but it is a very personal view of the shift from ‘that world’ to ‘this one’. My own father always ran his own company, but I decided to follow the corporate life & thus nearly 40 years of ITV ( in all its various guises ensued ).

Beginnings

A year ago, this week I learned that my ITV career was coming to an end. Yes, I had a hell of an innings but still a shock to the system when that day arrives…

So, what were my first reactions ? Fear, anger, panic , huge disappointment & a gut wrenching ‘bloody hell’ in my stomach ? Probably a mixture of all of those in the first few days/weeks that followed. There was never any feeling of denial though. I was leaving & that was that . Just like a long love affair when one party decides they do not want to be with you anymore then there is never really any way back. There is , of course, a massive sense of ‘loss’ & that can consume you if you do not confront it , preferably head on , in the early days of your news. Some people are shown the door straight away, gardening leave etc. Fortunately , I was allowed good time to say my goodbyes to the people that mattered. Given that I am a ‘high personality type’, always wanting to be busy & enjoying doing heaps of stuff, then I think the first thoughts of my family were , ” Oh God, he is going to drive us nuts at home !”

Thankfully I never gave them that chance as I decided that I definitely didn’t want to pursue a further job as a ‘posh slave’ ( Luke Johnson’s definition of people employed by companies ) & straight away decided that I was going to run my own business.

So, I really converted the huge negative into a massive positive . Some of you may have been thinking that I needed to take some time out & consider the options before diving into the deep waters of start-up. You may be right,  but my own coping mechanism , I guess, & ultimately my ability to move forward quickly led me down this route.

So off I went…no 6 months voyage around the far-flung corners of the globe, no lie on a beach in the South Sea Islands & no hide away in a cave on Bodmin moor. Just straight into ‘ open my own business mode ‘.

So, what happened next ? First the rush of adrenalin as I had to learn all the skills ( & considerable admin ! ) of getting your firm up & running. Website design, logo, name, social media marketing, email lists, professional photographs, company house & the lovely world of VAT returns ( bless them ). I love learning , so this was a brilliant phase for me. Funny enough, even though I have produced tons of business strategy docs, business plans, budget sheets, credential presentations etc in my ITV life, it was all so different when I did it for my own company. Yoga has taught me that we need to be more kind to ourselves, but I was hyper critical of my own initial efforts. I kept going ‘outside the room’ & rebooking at my master plan, then shouting out ‘yuck!’ & re-framing it. I also read heaps of books on the subject, my favourite being ‘How to Run your own business for Bohemians ‘…just brilliant for the creatively minded amongst us.

Then the excitement subsides for a while & your business ‘opens its doors’ ….now it’s real, no turning back, no wimping out…you are in …

That was the dramatic beginning , but what have I learned along the road ?

Firstly, I realised that I was going to be spending a lot of time on my own , even with a high-profile networking plan in action. I had always worked in an environment rich with people & I couldn’t stand the thought of being ‘alone at a desk ‘, or ‘nursing a day long cup of Cappuccino  alongside a computer in any old coffee shop. So off I went into the world of co-working offices , WeWork, Club Workspace etc, although I finally chose TOG ( The Office Group ). I opted for a Co-Working Pass, which means I can work out of any of about 20 buildings dotted around various parts of London. My home base is in Shoreditch ( I know , I know , you are thinking ‘hyper trendy ‘, but I was born in Bethnal Green, so it is home turf for me ( even though when I was a teenager we thought Shoreditch was worse than a sewer ditch ). The great thing about these Co-Working offices id that they are full of entrepreneurs, start-ups & some very talented individuals. They have all given me a sense of energy & massively helped me to ease into these new lands. My only irk is that almost everyone has headphones on, works on their computer all day long & rarely speaks. Strange but true!

Now to excavate further below the surface & examine what I found there :

People: The People I already knew fell into 2 camps : those who stuck by me, have been brilliant as guides, mentors, pick-me-ups & encouragers along the way. Having access to individuals who were already running their own businesses was invaluable. A huge massive ‘thank you’ to all of you, you have been stars and your continued support is a true blessing. Then there were people I knew really well, really well over a number of years who dropped me like an uneven pebble on a beach. Once you were no longer in the ‘corporate’ life, then it appears your usefulness disappears down the drain. I always had a strong sense that some of this would inevitably happen, but I was shocked by the frequency & scale of this. I could understand this if I had been offensive, non-co-operative or even just a megalomaniac ! But that was never my style. I fully understand that this is a two-way street  & you need to reach out as well, but in those first vulnerable months you need as much help as you can get, so it is truly sad when this fails to arrive. My Yoga life has given me a great insight to all of this. In the Hindu religion then Shiva is the God known as ‘ The Destroyer’. Without delving too much into the fine print here, the concept of destruction in this context is all about ‘removing’ all the negative stuff in your life, which in turn creates lots more space for all the positive things. So, my belief system now is that I do not feel anger or a sense of revenge to those people who I feel let me down a lot, I simply ‘remove’ them from my life. This may sound brutal, but it really is not. You can then make enough room in your life to focus on all those amazing positive folk out there who are a constant joy to be amongst.

Then there are the ‘ New People’, some I have met by networking, some by recommendations & some by pure fluke. By & large this group have been a revelation , ever helpful, keen to push work my way & fabulous advisors on subject areas I knew little about. I have been particularly impressed by the attitude of most small companies who seem ever eager to help out other small businesses. It really is a karma-thing, so I now spend many a time recommending other people for jobs . In fact, the other day I heard myself, for the third time in 2 hours saying : ” sorry I can’t really do that for you, but I do know someone who can “.  Not very good for my own bank balance but I am sure the ‘small business universe’ will pay me back.

That’s the good side of the coin, but like all Yang’s then there needs to be a Yin…so Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys & Girls, can I please now introduce you to the ‘Eternal Time-wasters’. What a numerous & annoying bunch they are. Appearing ‘really interested’, chasing you all the time, offering olive branches all over the place but at the end of the day delivering ‘sweet  nothings ‘ at all. They can sometimes be hard to spot, so much so that at times I wish I could take a truffle sniffing pig along to some meetings with them. I am getting better at sensing them but still not fully fluent in the art. To be avoided like the plague !

 The Fabled Black Book

I have a very robust ‘Black Book’, but I have to be very careful how often I open it. You can drive people nuts if you contact them about every ‘new & exciting opportunity ‘ you are working on. So, it needs to be used wisely. The real trick here is to find lots of new contacts & thus create a whole new improved version. You will also find that a lot of people will approach you just to see if they can access your precious contents, normally at zero cost !

Networking 

I have tried & experienced all forms of Networking , from Apps such as Shapr, to Networking Clubs & Industry events. Whilst there are some good new contacts to find out there, by & large they are not brilliant, unless you happen to be in the IT industry. Most of my new contacts have come either by personal recommendations, accidental meetings & by me reaching out to new people. I really do believe Linked In is a great resource ( I actually think it is improving over the years ) & I have found it to be my best ‘networking guide. ”

Have my views on the wider business environment changed ?

Not really, I am still frustrated by many of the issues that I have discussed in my blogs , notably :

Short Termism– still absolutely rife. If anything, it is getting worse & trying to get anyone to make long term decisions is a nigh on impossible. I don’t buy into the constant use of the word ” Brexit” to justify this. We really have got to find a journey that takes us back to long term investments ( which does not mean that we have to whole-heartedly abandon short activations. Far from it, the 2 go hand in hand ).

Leadership– still incredibly poor. The fact that we do not teach it should be a public outcry. Far too many Leaders are only interested in their  own gains & route to glory ( & I have worked for a few of them ). If we are going to thrive as a country in future times, then we really have to urgently address this.

Being Busy–  this seems like an ‘ancient excuse ‘ now, but I still hear it every day. ” Oh, I am so busy…”, ” I can’t believe how busy I am “, ” I am too busy to see you/look at this…” I even remember one very Senior Director who was always busy but always on his mobile phone… My response to this is what are you actually busy on ? In this multitasking world ( even though humans cannot multi-task ) we are losing our ability to focus. When we focus we mainly complete a task/job to 100% levels of our abilities. We get less busy & spend our time in richer, more productive zones. Perhaps before A.I takes full hold of us we will get to grips with this key ‘skill’.

Things I definitely do not miss : Apologies but this is a bit of a list :

Being in a meeting with 10 people, but only 3 of them really need to be there.

Being in lots of meetings, most of the time

Not having to play the ‘ Blame Game’. You know the scenario, something goes wrong & then rather than look to the solution, various individuals simply start ranting off about ‘who is to blame’.

Despite having lots of knowledge, having to get an endless list of people to sign off on stuff.

Leaders who do not understand how to lead.

Leaders who make out they are interested in your future career, but they are not.

The sheer effort people put into office politics.

People refusing to delegate

Sending an email that has to be cc’d to 20 people when you only want to converse with one of them.

Tiny issues that get blown up into a crisis  ( & boy do people enjoy that !)

Not being on a 6am train

Ok, that’s enough for now. How about some Yin stuff ?  All the positive areas I have enjoyed since going solo .

Things I am really enjoying :

Walking everywhere in London. I never take the Tube, occasionally the Bus, but I have literally walked all over London. It is brilliant for your Mind, Body & Spirit!

Creating your own schedule every day. The ultimate flexible working scenario.

Going to a Yoga Class every day.

Getting the 10am train.

Meeting heaps of new people.

Spending lots of time really focusing on work & social projects. What I call ‘proper work solutions ‘.

Learning every day.  One of the joys of life is continuous  learning. If you want to stay relevant & stay interesting, then there are tons of guides &  experts out there who are more than happy to engage. I just spent 8 hours  on the applications of A.R in mainstream marketing, it was fab.

Not having a difference between the ‘ Weekdays’ & the ‘ Weekends’. I no longer experience that end of week TGIF feeling. Every day is a new one for me, sometimes I work on Sundays. Your perspective on time radically changes.

Being a general less stressed & more relaxed person to be with. My Family are somewhat surprised by this one. Massively important to your life.

Being able to spend quality time on other areas of my life. I just completed a week long  Creative Writing Course  ( I will get that Novel published ).

There are more , but I am conscious that I run the risk of moving from Short Story to full blown Novel.

Final thoughts on the Journey so far.…..  It has been tremendously exciting but also extremely challenging. I am not going to kid anyone as it is a tough gig. You need to fully commit, trust yourself & review your business plan regularly. I have built a 5-year plan, & like any plan it is a ‘living, breathing entity’ that needs finessing & adjusting along the path. You will experience more freedom than you ever thought possible, but you are also going to have to be brave. More than anything else you are going to learn a bucket load about yourself, as probably for the first time in your life you will be spending lots of time on your own.  Your energy levels will rise as your thinking time expands & this will sometimes upset your balance. Remain positive & push forward. At the end of the day you truly are the ‘master of your own destiny’. More than anything else, like the Travellers of Old, you need to get off your butt & create those ‘Roads”.

Namaste

Gary x

Gary Knight
About Gary Knight
Travellers there are no Roads, Roads are made by Walking