Growing and Changing…

Growing and Changing…

As life flows around its obstacles, you grow and change; and I am no exception. This blog has seen so much change over the years and as I look back on the last five years, I see how much I have grown, changed and achieved. And I’m so very grateful for those experiences that molded me into the person I am right now, as I write this.

I haven’t had an easy life (and no one really has honestly) but the last year has been particularly hard on me. I’ve been good health-wise, but the obstacles I’ve had to face and the fears I’ve had to confront during 2016 are nearly unbelievable; recapping the year makes me wonder if it was even real or fiction.

On Hopes, Dreams, Loss, and Emotional Trauma

As with every new year, one looks forward to doing new things, making progress and achieving goals, whether or not they are realistic. My 2016 goals weren’t exactly unrealistic, but they relied heavily on other people pulling their weight and getting shit done on their end. Big mistake.

The lesson learned here is to be selfish and make goals for yourself. Being selfish does not make you a bad person. You need to put yourself first too, sometimes. You can’t help anyone if you’re not working at your best capacity, or if you’re unhappy (I learned this from a very special person). You will spend your life being unhappy but helping everyone else be happy and in the end, you’ll look back on your life and wonder what the hell you did, and wish that you made more selfish decisions sometimes. Look after yourself.

So, as you could imagine, my goal was not achieved, but that’s okay because life sometimes just does not work in the ways that we want it to. I do believe in a higher power that always wants the best of us. However, getting me off the path I was on, was a very painful process.

In early 2016, while struggling to build a sustainable business in an industry that’s respected globally, but not in Trinidad, the partnership went sour after my then significant other (and also one of the three co-founders), felt ‘strongly’ about the future of the business and our relationship, both of which subsequently descended in chaos within a week. To be fair, the relationship was already unstable whether or not he wants to admit it; we discussed a separation seriously at least half a dozen times since 2013. It wasn’t a simple separation, as it was fuelled with high levels of stress and emotion.

I learned a very powerful lesson that fateful night; choose your inner circle wisely. Never before had words been truer. Over the years, I watched my circle shrink and shrivel into nothingness, and I never put any real effort into making and keeping friends close. You are not an island; you really need people around you to keep you going and support you when things get tough.

As to what instigated such a dramatic breakup, I cannot put my finger on one thing because it was a build up of issues that we never honestly dealt with. But what I can say is that communication, and honest communication is so very important to any relationship. But as painful as that experience was, I did learn a lot from it, and the lessons from the relationship are there to help me grow and not continue to make the same mistakes; all of which I am grateful for.

I was not, however, prepared for what was up next.

We did an entire company restructure, restructured the service and tried to work more efficiently and effectively. And it worked for a while…

My good friend of ten or so years was also a co-founder of the business, and suffered a separation from his wife and kids at the hands of the business (and some personal stress); a mere two weeks after my breakup. So, it was chaos trying to deal with two breakups and a startup that was undergoing a severe shuffle (due to my breakup). Needless to say, we managed to make it out alive, just about!

During this chaos, I was sleeping about 3 hours a night on my mother’s couch in her tiny apartment while living out of the boot of my car. I spent my day managing the few clients we had, and cold calling to grow the business. Honestly, we needed money, because we had real bills to pay, with clients who weren’t paying consistently. I just kept hitting wall after wall.

Finally, I got a place to live. It wasn’t easy and I had no idea how I was affording it over the next year, but I had to try. Something was bound to work right? Wrong. After months of trying, struggle, pain and tears… I lost my first car. And then, as life would have it, I had to make the hard decision to give up my apartment instead of digging my debt hole deeper.

So at this point, I was in more debt than I could imagine, no home, no car, the business was struggling as a result of my personal situation and no one was hiring in my industry. There was only one thing left to do…

Tearing it all down to build all over again

In December, I made the decision to migrate back to England, my home country. This wasn’t a light decision as I knew that there was a high chance I was never returning to Trinidad, leaving everything I’ve known, family, friends, business and network all behind, to start over in a country I left when I was seven years old. But, 26 is as good an age as any to start all over.

I got my clean slate. Finally.

There is light in this story. And a story of love, too. Remember that friend I mentioned earlier? He’s the one good thing that happened all year, along with all the valuable lessons learned. As the stress grew and pressure increased, we got closer. I don’t have to go into details to tell you what happened here. But what I will say is that he’s the most incredible person I’ve ever known, and he continues to grow and overcome his obstacles with grace and patience. He’s a constant inspiration to me and the one who inspired me to write and be the best version of myself. Why this didn’t happen years ago, I don’t know, but you know what they say: nothing good comes easy. Side note: I’m deliberately not publishing details regarding this yet because I do enjoy some level of privacy, and wish to respect his too.

So I’m in England, writing this blog post on the tube home from work, and slowly rebuilding my life.

I’ve learned a very powerful lesson about leaving everything behind: when you tear everything down, you choose what you want to build in its place. Loss is not always a bad thing. When you’ve lost everything and you’re standing in the ashes of what once was, you realize how much space you now have to build something better, and you also know what’s truly important to you. Letting everything go has been the most liberating experience of my life, albeit the most painful.

Now back to this blog…

I’ve decided to start writing about my past experiences and hopefully someone will eventually learn from it. I no longer have Trinidad and the people in it holding me back. For those who know me personally, you know which experiences I’m talking about. For the rest of you, you’ll have to just stay tuned!

It’s your job to create value, not chase revenue.

It’s your job to create value, not chase revenue.

For most, starting a business is about making money. I mean, that’s the crux of it, but should it be your main focus?

We’ve seen time and time again, especially on a local scale, how businesses with a money-only focus either fizzle out or end up perceived as corrupt or greedy, and the consumers are the ones who suffer in the long run.

What if you can have your cake AND eat it too? What if you can create a business where people want to work at, and people want to shop from, and you can make a sustainable revenue on a long-term scale? Sounds too good to be true? While some may say it’s idealistic, I call bullshit.

You love when you get great customer service, right? I do, too. I remember those places, and recommend them frequently. So build your business on that touch point of value.

People don’t buy a product for what it is, they buy because of how they value it.

When you create something that’s worth something to someone, not only yourself, you’ll find that your consumers will become brand ambassadors, and those are the people who keep your business alive. Repeat business is the most valuable business in a sustainable long-term revenue model.

As entrepreneurs and business owners, it’s up to us to change the landscape in Trinidad in terms of value and customer service.

We always think that local items are of lower value and customer service is always crap, but what are we doing as business owners to change that? We have to add more value to our product bases and look at our offerings in a new light, putting a consumer first, not money first.

The money will come, it always does, but you have to be patient. You’ve got to run this one like a marathon, not a sprint. One of the issues here is that many small business owners are unaware of the struggles in the first two years, but I’ll get into that in another post.

Start by building something of value, something that people want, something that people will remember, with happy employees, a great company culture and fantastic customer service… You will outsell every single one of your competitors with this strategy.

When is it the right time?

When is the right time?

The right time to start a business?

The right time to start a family?

The right time to start a degree?

It’s never going to be the right time. The right time is NOW. You’ll never really know if you’re ready for that next step unless you actually take it.

So empower yourself to take that step… Now.

Getting Clients to Commit! 

Getting Clients to Commit! 

As a startup, and even as an existing business, it’s becoming seemingly harder to get clients to commit to business for a set duration. However, for some businesses, it might mean the difference between sinking, floating and sailing.

Committing clients to a five year contract for a simple service in this economy is ludicrous. Six-month and twelve-month contracts with three month trials are more favorable, and even then, termination clauses sometimes have to be penalty free from the client-side, which reeks of unfairness on the service provider’s end.

Striking a fair balance is sometimes hard, especially if a young business is providing a service to a company who has been around for some time. Negotiating termination and payment terms seem to be the biggest hurdle, but something to keep in mind is that if the client came to you, or chose you out of a pool of suppliers, you may have more weight than you think. Opening a discussion about changing the standard terms to something more fair is always a good place to start.

Working closer to your ideal arrangement with a client with every contract is also a good method to get what you need from them while providing fair terms. It will give the relationship some time to grow while you establish trust and confidence with your client.

Client contracts are key to the health of a business. Use them with as many clients as you can manage as it helps you to forecast your cash flow and protects you legally if a client does not want to pay. They should be mandatory, at least for new clients, conglomerates, or companies you’re unsure about.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, just speaking/writing from personal experience, and there may be important details missing, such as the specific protection a contract can provide. 

The Rule of Three

The Rule of Three

The rule of three is simple.

Pick three things you want to achieve today. And focus all your efforts on those three things. 

By doing this, you end up clearing your task list much faster than you expected, you’re not as drained, and you’re more relaxed, because you only have three things to do today. The bonus is that when you’re more relaxed, your performance and output increases exponentially (there are hundreds of studies on this to prove it) and by achieving these three things every day, you’ll feel an overall satisfaction with your life.

A good idea is to make one of those three an item you’ve been procrastinating for a while. By ticking it off, you’ll be encouraged to tackle more on your list, which is always a great thing.

A bonus tip is when you’re finished with those three tasks and you have the time, don’t stop there. Tackle a fourth, or perhaps a fifth. And do keep track of your progress somehow so that you can reward yourself for all the hard work!

The Importance of Sleep

The Importance of Sleep

I’ve been seeing many entrepreneurs and business owners burning the midnight oil, night after night. I’m awake at some crazy hours (and my Twitter TL is flooded with you owls), but I somehow manage to get a solid eight hours of sleep (or sometimes a little more!)

Not getting enough sleep for an extended period isn’t something to be proud of. It shows a consistent lack of proper planning on your part. This does not include the couple of nights where you have to burn through it to get that project closed on time, or supply a client with some last-minute work (because that shit does happen for us service businesses).

What I’m talking about is the hundreds of business owners who claim to not have a good night’s sleep in over a year, or two or three years.

This is what a potential client thinks: if you have to handle my sensitive business, and you’re not functioning properly because you haven’t gotten enough sleep, then I don’t want your business.

I have heard a client talk about a supplier like that. It’s a scary position to be in, especially when they then look at you and question your sleeping habits.

So, set a regular bed time which allows at least seven hours of sleep. Stick to it.

If you need a list of the numerous health benefits, Google ‘the benefits of sleep’.

Bottom Line: you need to be at your best performance and peak brain function to keep your business healthy.

Post-Script: I am quite guilty for not getting enough sleep too. After all, this post was written at 1:44am. But I try not to do this two nights in a row and not more than once a week, and that’s important. 

We’re at TIC! Catch us at Booth #9!

We’re at TIC! Catch us at Booth #9!

I was working on a super secret project for the last couple weeks and we’re *finally* unveiling it at Trade and Investment Convention (TIC) 2016! It’s quite an exciting time for us, especially me.

May 2015 marked a significant point in my life and career; I decided to take the plunge, quit my day job, my secure salary, and start my own marketing agency. The road has not been easy, but it has been full of many lessons.

A year later and the service I started out with one year ago has niched itself into a market of its own, being the first social media dedicated agency in Trinidad and Tobago. TILT.social just does social, no websites, no press ads, no mobile apps. Just social.

We take your social media presence and analyze it, look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and then begin the process of branding it, and creating a voice of its own.

We’ve done this for some of largest brands in the country and we continue to change the industry as we move forward.

This latest change, the massive shave of our line of services, allows us to remain focused on something we’re great at and provide a service that is second to none.

I’m proud to be a part of this focused team at Elevate, and be able to usher in a new phase of social marketing to Trinidad and Tobago.

You should check out our new website: www.TILT.social and you’ll see why we’re so confident in this service offering.

The website is the hub; it has all the information you need as a client, and offers a zero-bullshit policy, quite like its founders. We believe that clients need information that’s straight to the point, with no figuring out to do. This is what we do, this is what is costs, this is what you get, and that’s IT.

We’re the best at what we do. But I’ll let you decide that when you try us out.

Register at www.TILT.social

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