Five lessons: Zoë started her business five years ago – and never looked back
In the summer of 2020, when we were still digesting the pandemic and where the world was heading next, employers and employees were very nervous.
It was also an incredibly scary time for entrepreneurs – especially those who had set up just before the pandemic took hold.
One of these entrepreneurs, Zoë Allen, wrote an article for This is Money on why people shouldn’t be afraid to launch a startupeven in the face of the unknown.
She jumped into the deep end in February 2019, without a business plan or presentation document, when she started her own art consulting business, leaving behind the safety net of a full-time job as as director of a successful creative agency.
Zoë, 37, who lives in East Sussex, says Artistic Statements Ltd continues to go from strength to strength.
In recent times she has commissioned award-winning artists and last year she was the brains behind a large-scale public artwork at Westfield White City – London’s largest nature-inspired AR integrated mural.
His company has a dozen projects in the pipeline for the next 18 months, working with London’s best developers, owners and award-winning architectural firms.
Three of these projects are buildings between 100,000 and 300,000 square feet with their reception areas providing gallery-like space perfect for emerging artists.
Here, she reveals the five ‘P’ lessons she’s taken over the past five years to get to where she is today – and reiterates that becoming an entrepreneur, while intimidating, is by far the most rewarding step that she has ever crossed.
1. PROCEED…AND NEVER LOOK BACK
I’m often presented with business ideas that come with an “I’ll do it when…” or an “I can’t because” we naturally create blocks and obstacles. “Obstacles do not block the path, they are the path.”
Start simply, not when you are 100% ready, not when you have a business plan or the blessing of your peers and loved ones.
The truth is that you will never truly have everyone’s blessing because they are not you and they are not in your head. Don’t let yourself be blocked by the mental limitations of others.
I spent the first two years in business with nothing more than a home page, but I went wild, networked, maintained old relationships and found new ones – in a few meetings, the briefs started arriving.
I was a sponge for hot industry topics and made sure to learn something from every meeting I had, no matter how small.
The key is, in all caps… START! Then tell people you’ve started, there’s no going back.
2. STAFF – HIRING AS SOON AS YOU CAN!
To hire. Not really. I spent about 18 months dealing with a difficult workload requiring multiple skills, some of which were not my strongest.
This meant I had to work hard in the areas I didn’t excel at and this naturally affected the skills I had because I had less time and energy to devote to them.
The workload finally reached a point where I was forced to hire…and boy am I glad I did it – but I wish I had done it sooner.
As business owners we are naturally protective about how we do things and I would definitely be overprotective.
The recruitments I have done have shown me that we all have very different skills and that they are much better than me in certain aspects.
It taught me that entrepreneurs can’t and can’t do everything. The time saved is now spent doing what I do best.
On a large scale: Zoë has commissioned many large art projects, including this recent one at Westfield White City
3. PACE YOURSELF TO AVOID BURNOUT
No one can break the bank for leather 24/7. I realized I couldn’t maintain the same energy throughout the week.
There are days I’m bouncing off the ceiling with energy for meetings, the next day I’m low on energy but bursting with creativity – another day I have nothing. And it took a while to realize that everything was okay.
Understand yourself and what motivates you. I’m still working on this and finding the best way to work.
A lot of this means being kind to yourself and understanding that respecting your own pace and energy level will be of huge benefit in the long run.
It’s so easy to burn out when running your own business; you rarely lack motivation or passion. Because of this, you break through the pain barrier, but it means that entrepreneurs can often feel exhausted and then get sick.
Then you leave for a few days, or even a few weeks. Listen to your body and if you need an afternoon off, do it. After all, you are the boss.
4. PIVOT AND HAVE A PLAN B, C OR Z
It is extremely important to find and listen to industry leaders and talk to people in your network about any changes they may have observed in the industry or in their business.
If there are problems ahead, you need to be able to have a plan B, C or Z.
The business you started may not be the one you end up with – so it’s very important to recognize what works and what doesn’t.
I found that I needed to be flexible in the types of work I took on and that being able to adapt to different areas allows me to diversify and, to some extent, future-proof myself.
Not every business will be able to sustain itself, but by keeping an eye on what’s happening in the future, being proactive and above all leaving your ego at the door.
If an entrepreneur is able to take their business into a different area and achieve even greater success, why not? Don’t be the one to turn off the lights at the end of the night.
5. PERSPECTIVE: GRAB A MENTAL SURFBOARD AND SURF THE PRESSURE WAVES
Again, it’s so easy to lose track when you’re head down.
The pressure can be immense, and you often have to juggle many things and wear many hats. Entrepreneurs need to take a step back and see the big picture.
It really helps me to keep a cool head, to be calm and serene.
In demanding times, a loss of perspective can lead to a bad attitude – we’ve all been there when our patience has been tested.
No matter how stressful the situation, be kind, see a funny side (if you can), and remember that in a short time, it probably won’t be a problem.
I once said to an artist: we may have overcome this obstacle, but there will probably be another one. They are like waves, expect them to keep coming and you will become stronger to deal with them.
Take a surfboard and try using it.
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