2020 Lesson 2: A Lone Wolf is Alone

In Lesson 1 I shared how two months ago my body betrayed me and I suddenly couldn’t work.

In Lesson 1 I shared how two months ago my body betrayed me and I suddenly couldn’t work. You can read it here (it’s about being grateful, it’s worth reading…go look… I’ll be most grateful if you do…)

My business is important to me. My clients are important to me. Being unable to work is hard for me to bear at any time. It was even worse at that particular moment in time as I had just gotten started on a new and exciting project. A project that required a LOT of typing that now could not be done. I was frustrated, anxious and fairly depressed.

Then, I came down with flu and needed to spend a week in bed. I remember the first morning that I realised I was too sick to concentrate. It was month-end. We had VAT returns due, we had clients who needed management reports, there were Deadlines with a capital D.

I spent five minutes feeling anxious and alone – more out of habit than anything else. Then I sent out a message to my team, telling them that I now had a head cold on top of not being able to use my hands and that I couldn’t think straight.

I remember very clearly how my feelings of despair lifted layer by layer with every single response. I received multiple replies from my team, but they all came down to one over-arching message: “Don’t worry, we’ve got this.”

And they did.

For an entire week, I lay in bed drugging myself with medication and sleeping it off. For an entire week, my business ran without me. My amazing and wonderful team met every deadline, finished the full workload and kept everybody happy without once coming to me for anything.

Yes, there were a few things they couldn’t do – but they were also able to recognise that these things could wait.

There were one or two mistakes made – that they also managed to fix.

And they didn’t handle anything for me from a strategic or high level management perspective, but they didn’t have to.

I was able to rest and recuperate without having to think about work even once.

I have been running this business for thirteen years. This is the first time I have been able to take time off like this. Without any warning, no preparation, no build up and training. Just one message that said I can’t do this and my team said they can.

The first time in thirteen years. It was one of the best moments I have ever had.

And so I learned how very important your team is. I want to emphasise that I learned this… I already “knew” about the importance of a team. You read about building your dream team in articles and business books and there will always be at least one speaker at a webinar/seminar/expo telling you about the power of a team.

We all “know” this. But knowing and knowing are two different things, aren’t they? And this year, I actually learned about the power of teamwork.

My team wasn’t built overnight. It’s been a long road of making bad hiring decisions and learning from them, taking chances on people for character instead of experience and a lot of time nurturing my team and letting them know that I am personally as invested in their success as I am in my own.

I have had to create training, I have spent hours on documenting systems and processes. I have created reference documents and videos. We have done one-on-one training and group training and a little bit of “here’s the deep-end, swim” training, which then involves some lifeguard work.

It took time I didn’t really have and a lot of emotion and energy, that – to be honest – I didn’t really have.

But that work that I put into my team was rewarded one hundredfold on that miserable morning when I realised that after thirteen years of working and struggling, I am no longer alone.

If you are running your own business and you are tired and burnt out, then please, build a team. I know its not easy. I didn’t have the cashflow that I needed to hire (most of my team is actually still outsourced). I didn’t have the time I needed to train. Or the time needed to research and check references. Or the time it took to write out all those processes. Or the energy required for building relationships. But a couple of years back, I realised I couldn’t go it alone and I made the necessary personal sacrifices in order to build a team.

Man, am I happy I did.

Being a lone wolf sounds terribly romantic. And if you are strong enough, you can make it alone. I made it for nine years. But do you want to have to be that strong for that long? Its exhausting and it’s not worth it. You gain nothing from being alone.

The lone wolf has no one to encourage him when he’s down.

He has no one to care for him when he is ill.

He has no one to lift him up when he is weak.

No one to step in for him when he can’t stand up.

The lone wolf is alone – and being alone is one of the worst experiences of human existence.

Build. A. Team.

If you don’t know where to start, give me a shout, we can work it out together. But please don’t go alone anymore.

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