I am an entrepreneur who has set up 8 businesses, selling two of these, currently running three and helping my wife run a further 3.
I have been fortunate that have never found my business to be tough or been in a situation of despair. I have never had to close down a business due to cash flow issues or lack of business and I have never been in a situation where business has proved to be so difficult that I just wanted to pack it all in.
I have, however, due to the work that I do, seen many businesses and business people in such a situation. I will never say that I can understand what a business person in such a situation goes though. I cannot. And in many ways this may put you off reading any further. I don't have a story of everything falling apart and then somehow making it work. If this is what you are looking for then you will not find it in any words I write.
My story is simply how I moved from a hard intensive work, almost workaholic environment. It would not be unusual for me to work a 10 -12 hour day and I moved to working three and a half days a week earning more money in the process.
So for me work life balance is a big thing. I run three businesses; an accountancy practice a bookkeeping practice and a Business Growth Strategy business. I sit on the board of 4 Australian companies as a non-executive director and I also have UK interests too.
I try to do all this in three to three and a half days a week. In addition, in 2013 I took approximately 10 weeks holiday and in 2014 I was on holiday for 16 weeks. I am so passionate about work life balance that I also believe my team should have one too. All my staff in Australia do not work more than a four day working week.
I have been very fortunate and blessed that I have had some amazing mentors in my life. My first mentor taught me everything about large business and my second mentor taught me everything about small business. I was also involved in dealing with businesses and business owners that were successful. So when I started my own business it was easy. I had these great mentors to lean on and business was good and I made a lot of money. There was, however, a problem.
You see these great, intelligent and brilliant people taught me how to make money but they didn't tell or show me how to live my life. I was in a situation where I had money but there still was a piece of the puzzle missing. I did not know what it was but I knew something was missing and I tried to find it. So I thought I needed to get involved in community and got involved in community projects, did charitable fund-raising and even ran the London Marathon. But it was a bit like being on drugs; it gave me a high while I was involved but after a while it just was not fulfilling.
The person who taught me how to live my life was not a business person. She had not received a great education and she was not particularly wealthy. In fact she worked at a local supermarket filling shelves and she was my cousin. This is where my story really begins.
Approximately 12 years ago, my wife and I was planning a trip from the UK to Fiji to attend a wedding. I told my cousin about this and I asked her to join us. She said she would except -- only a few weeks later, she said she could not because her husband could not get time off work.
A number of years later my cousin was hospitalised. She suffered from Lupus, a horrible disease. I would visit her regularly and on one Sunday I went to see her and we discussed various things and she without expectation said to me "I have a regret. I should have gone to Fiji with you." It was unexpected, but I waved it off and told her she was feeling a bit down as she was unwell and that when she got better she would go and have a great time.
On Tuesday, two days later, about 10 pm at night I received a call from my brother-in-law to advise me that my cousin had died. She was 38 years old. It was a major shock to me.
As you can imagine, I did not sleep well that night and in the morning I realised that life really was too short and we need to live now.
I also realised I never wanted to be in situation where I would regret something. It dawned on me that if I wanted to do all the things that I wanted to do in my life then working 5 or days a week with a few weeks off wasn't going to cut it. It was at that point that I knew I needed to re-organise my business and my thinking. That very week, I started working a 4 day working week.
A couple of years later, I underwent another traumatic event which made me totally evaluate my life. All of a sudden money was no longer important. It was all about friends, family and being spiritual. My friends changed, with old ones thinking I had become a bit loopy. But the thing was that I loved the life I was living. There was, however, one major issue. I was leaking cash at a phenomenal rate and that if I did not do something about it I would lose it all in about 10 years.
You see we need to live in both worlds; the money world and the spiritual world and we need to oscillate between these two worlds in order to be truly fulfilled. Many people believe that you are either in in the spiritual world or the money world. But if you want to make a difference in the spiritual world you actually have to have the cash to do it.
It was at this point that it hit me that my business is there only for one purpose. It is there to generate income which allows me to live a lifestyle I want.You see, I worked out that the business should come second. I came first. I was the most important part of the equation. If the business came first, I would simply become a slave to it and it would not allow me to live the way I wanted.
Over the years, my clients starting asking me how could I do so much and work so little. They would be working in one business and spend more than 60 hours a week doing it and still not feel in control.
That is how my third business was born. I now spend most of my time with small and medium sized businesses, where the business person works long hours and feels they are not achieving their potential and I find solutions to reduce their working hours and double their profits. And I do it with a passion.
The sad part of this story, which sits heavily in my heart, is that in order for me and my family to have this amazing, wonderful life that I now have, it required someone to lose their life. I do not know what legacy I will leave behind, but I know what legacy my cousin left this world. The way I live my life and the way my clients live their life is her legacy -- not bad for a person filing shelves at the local supermarket.