Yes, that is me in the picture, free-wheeling down the hill, petrified but loving life! This was 2008, and I was right at the beginning of my ‘living courageously’ philosophy – a philosophy I still live by – and I was captaining the Star Ship Enterprise Soap-Box at the Gannon Ball Run for Dungannon Enterprise Centre, where I worked at the time.

The photo popped up in my photo memories recently and it got me thinking about the similarities between this experience and my own, and my clients’ experience of entrepreneurship.

Let me explain…

When you start a soap-box race, your team gives you a push start (there’s no engine after-all). They run with you until the gravity on the hill, pulls you faster than they can run then you’re on your own. See the team a little like that drive and passion you have right at the start of your entrepreneurial journey. It’s fun, exciting and scary as hell. You have no idea what’s going to happen when you turn the corner (launch your business) and you’re out there in public for all to see!

Then you turn the corner come out the gates and suddenly remember that the street is cobbled. You’re bouncing about every road and direction, you don’t know how long you’ll be able to hold onto the steering wheel. You’re in full fright mode but it feels so exciting, liberating even. You’re living dangerously. This is a little like that phase where you’re bouncing from one idea to the other. You’re finding your feet. Figuring out what works for you. Discovering your ideal client, finding the best marketing platforms, drilling down your product or service. There are lots of obstacles and challenges but you’re still driven by that passion you had before.

Before you know it, you’re at the next corner and realise you should have paid more attention to the instructions about the brakes. Then ‘boom’, you’ve crashed. But that team we talked about earlier, they’ve been running behind you the whole time and they come to pull you out, straighten you up and set you on your way again. In business, this is a bit like the first big hurdle that makes you wonder what on earth you got yourself into, surely there are easier ways to have fun, right?! But, you start to build your network. Hang out with other people who are in business, get a mentor… and they pull you out and guide you back on the straight and narrow.

Now you’re moving. The initial fear has passed and you’re even more excited because you know the big hill is coming soon. Now that the initial nerves have passed, you begin to hear the crowd cheering, you look around and you know, you’re doing something right! Just like when you begin to get those positive reviews, when you start to see that you’re making a difference to your clients and you’re thirsty for more. You want to grow now. You want what’s coming next. You know it’s going to be scary but you’re up for the challenge.

Then it’s the big hill. Your heart is pumping as gravity works its magic and you’re speeding way faster than you imagined you would. This is your growth period. When things start to move, they move fast. You’re looking all around now for what could potentially knock you off course and then you see it… the giant ramp! The opportunity that scares the life out of you because when you take it, when you start that path, you are on the road to success and, let’s be honest, success is scary. You’ll have to do things you’ve never done before… employ staff, take out loans, come up against some of your own long held beliefs about money, success and risk.

Then you go over the ramp and during those few seconds that you’re in the air, you’re thinking: ‘holy cow, I’m really doing this’! You’re about to achieve your goal. Then you hit the ground with a thud. Now, when it comes to business, you could see this as your next challenge but equally, it could be that now you’ve hit the ground running! Either way, you’ve never been more determined to reach the finish line.

And then you get there! There’s rapturous applause. Your team catches up with you and everyone celebrates. You’re black and blue all over but you’re not done yet. It’s time to go again. But this time… you’re not scared, you’re more excited than you’ve ever been. Now you’re hooked. You want more. You have a chat with your team, figure out a better strategy, get more familiar with the track, the cobbles, the corners, the straight and narrows, the big hills and the ramps. This time, you’re ready for bigger and better. Lets do this!

Who knew that starting a growing a business was just like driving in a soap-box race, huh?

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