I’ve learned many lessons in the past 12 months whilst working on AMotherBrand. Not all of them were joyful learning experiences at the time, but all of them have been formative. In this blog I’m going to share the key lessons I learned in 2019 and what I’ve taken from them.

I’m going to start with my most eye-opening revelations.

Most eye-opening revelations

1. Nothing ever happens as quickly as you think or hope it will – especially with tech.

This is a big lesson I learned in 2019 and one I’m still learning.

When I initially made some enquiries about creating the AMotherBrand platform I was totally ignorant about how long it might take to develop. I also didn’t factor into consideration that I might change my mind about things as I went along!

I’ve had ‘Coming Soon’ on my website for about a year now… I started work on my website September 2018 and was positive it would launch February 2019 latest. Due to tech issues and plans naturally evolving in the (long) interim, it’s now set to launch September 2020.

In my previous career in television we created films from commission to edit in relatively short timeframes. We frequently had to grapple with enormous and very last minute changes to what needed to be filmed and where, so I’m used to finding solutions and making stuff happen. There was never any option for something not to happen to schedule.

It transpires this is not the same with getting a website developed. Which leads me to point 2.

2. Tech lesson: If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s really hard working with developers.

Key tip: Establish really clear guidelines about expectations from the start.

I learned a lot in 2019 about the development of websites. Working with back-end developers is an enormous learning curve if it’s not a world to which you’ve been exposed before.

I now totally understand why big start-ups have CTOs.

Here are top tips taken from my lessons learned:

1. From the onset, establish clarity about exactly what is covered in the scope of the job you’re paying for (get really clear on this).

2. Remember if you veer into the realm of aesthetic choices you’re going to have to have some IRL meetings or Skype / Zoom chats.
There will be some back and forth about these. Check the time / money implications of these are factored into the expectations of the job from your developer.

3. Establish clarity on communication.
Get really clear on how you will communicate with your developer (is it by phone, by Trello, Slack, email or something else?). Establish clarity on what information you expect to be shared and how frequently.

4. Set up boundaries about your expectations about answering emails etc.
(This is a big one for me. When you send emails and get zilch back, it’s stressful.)

5. Have a really clear deadline.
Factor in a little contingency but stick to an agreed time-scale. Early on I made the mistake of saying I was keen for the work to be done soon but I had no specific deadline.

**DON’T DO WHAT I DID**

Set a deadline. Otherwise, you’ll be pushed to the bottom of any work pile and it’s hard to establish a sense of urgency after that.

6. Accept that things happen behind the scenes and back to Lesson #1, it all takes longer than you think it will.

2. Tech lesson: If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s really hard working with developers.

One of the most amazing lessons for me last year was how incredibly helpful it can be just to have a short chat with someone knowledgable… It sounds silly but I’ve always been inclined to try to work stuff out myself. This year I learned that it is much more efficient to go straight to someone who can help.

Of all my many hours spent working on AMotherBrand last year, by far and away the most useful ones were those few spent talking to experts. By experts, I mean successful entrepreneurs who understand what you’re trying to do because they’ve already done it.

I really recommend that you reach out to people who may be able to advise or work with you. Worst-case scenario, they never get back to you. Best-case scenario, you might make a new friend or mentor out of the communication.

I’m not kidding when I say that 15 minutes on the phone to one of my mentors was better for clarity of direction than months of my own research and planning.

How do you do this? I’m no expert but you could email with a polite and modest request for a chat, strike up an engaged relationship online or join a programme that will give you access to the mentor you’d like to talk to. I’m sure there are many ways in which you can establish tentative relationships with prospective mentors, but these are the ones that have worked for me!

General big realisations

4. It’s vital to have a clear idea of where you’re going.

In the earlier months of 2019 I was haphazard about how I was working and what I was working on at any given time.

I learned that it was only when I considered what I wanted my ideal life / work balance to look like and what I wanted AMotherBrand to become, that I was able to formulate clear goals. From there I was able to make decisions about what to focus on through the lens of those goals. It also helped me work out the steps I needed to take in order to reach them.

Whether these are immediate or long-term goals, knowing what you’re heading towards keeps you focused and motivated to get there.

5. Mindset lesson: Fighting self-doubt is the biggest daily challenge of starting up your own business

In the earlier months of 2019 I was haphazard about how I was working and what I was working on at any given time.

I learned that it was only when I considered what I wanted my ideal life / work balance to look like and what I wanted AMotherBrand to become, that I was able to formulate clear goals. From there I was able to make decisions about what to focus on through the lens of those goals. It also helped me work out the steps I needed to take in order to reach them.

Whether these are immediate or long-term goals, knowing what you’re heading towards keeps you focused and motivated to get there.

5. Mindset lesson: Fighting self-doubt is the biggest daily challenge of starting up your own business

Without a doubt, the hardest part of being an entrepreneur for me is keeping a positive mindset and not listening to self-doubt.

I use meditation, visualization, affirmations and constant engagement with motivational figures to help me bolster my defenses against self-doubt.

6. Slay in your lane: Avoid comparing yourself to others and keep focused on *your* version of success.

In 2019 I frequently fell into the trap of feeling rubbish when I compared my work to vaguely similar businesses.

I’ve found that the best way to avoid comparison is to a) remind myself that everyone has their own unique journey and b) to keep totally focused on my journey, my values and my goals.

Success for me is being present and connected with my children as well as finding a way to create meaningful work around them (and supporting other women to do the same). Every time I start to judge myself harshly against someone else on social media, I remind myself to focus on my own journey.

7. Lesson in prioritising

I’m still working on this. When there are so many varied tasks that need doing, sometimes it feels like everything needs doing at once.

Some days I have Whatsapp, Trello and my emails all pinging at me at once. I have to stop myself from replying to everyone immediately, constantly interrupting the flow of whatever I was doing before the ‘ping’. If I did this, I’d be spreading my cognitive capacity across a number of very different ‘tasks’ at one time. I’d be doing none of them well.

I’ve learned it’s best to choose the most important task and focus on it. Get rid of distractions by turning off all notifications (or better putting your phone on airplane mode) and stick to one key priority for an allocated amount of time. When that’s complete you can catch up with everything else.

8. Learn your strengths

It was so enlightening this year to discover what my core strengths are and see how they play into my mission and creation of AMotherBrand.

When I learned my core strengths I felt ‘seen’ for the first time. I took a scientific survey, which gives you your top strengths, and it was enlightening! Learning my core character strengths also made sense of what I’d enjoyed about previous work (and why I hadn’t felt comfortable with other elements) and what I loved about what I was doing now with AMotherBrand. It also helped me get really clear on my strengths for my work going forward.

Once you know your character strengths you gain an understanding of yourself, your values and the areas in which you naturally excel and find energizing. As well as helping you capitalize on your strengths in your work, it has also been shown to help you:

  • Improve your relationships
  • Enhance your overall wellbeing
  • Build your resilience
  • Strengthen your ability to overcome problems

I thoroughly recommend it!

9. Lesson in relationships: Find like-minded people to talk to and hang out with.

This is your life-line. Seriously, you need this.

I learned the hard way this year that although my business is my everything (other than my family obvs) – nobody else cares as much about it as you’d ideally like them to!

Family try to understand and friends support when they can, but everyone’s busy and if they don’t ‘get’ it in the same way you do, it’s going to be hard to get the feedback you might want from family and friends. That’s where you need to find a like-minded network!

I’ve been so lucky to be part of a whatsapp group of amazing early-stage entrepreneurs who are mothers since earlier this year. We are all united by shared goals and challenges. We chat daily and support each other, whether it’s navigating a social media challenge or a life one. They’ve become my business family and it’s honestly been life-changing. My hope is that the AMotherBrand membership has an equally brilliantly supportive vibe, on a larger scale.

Online networking is brilliant but you can’t actually beat seeing real people in real life. When I’ve made the effort to get out of my house and routine and meet other like-minded mamas, it has always been worth it. I’m now running regular meet-ups for AMotherBrand (albeit initially in limited locations) – please join the AMotherBrand Facebook group for more info.

10. Big picture lesson: Self-care is your superpower.

This is your life-line. Seriously, you need this.

I learned the hard way this year that although my business is my everything (other than my family obvs) – nobody else cares as much about it as you’d ideally like them to!

Family try to understand and friends support when they can, but everyone’s busy and if they don’t ‘get’ it in the same way you do, it’s going to be hard to get the feedback you might want from family and friends. That’s where you need to find a like-minded network!

I’ve been so lucky to be part of a whatsapp group of amazing early-stage entrepreneurs who are mothers since earlier this year. We are all united by shared goals and challenges. We chat daily and support each other, whether it’s navigating a social media challenge or a life one. They’ve become my business family and it’s honestly been life-changing. My hope is that the AMotherBrand membership has an equally brilliantly supportive vibe, on a larger scale.

Online networking is brilliant but you can’t actually beat seeing real people in real life. When I’ve made the effort to get out of my house and routine and meet other like-minded mamas, it has always been worth it. I’m now running regular meet-ups for AMotherBrand (albeit initially in limited locations) – please join the AMotherBrand Facebook group for more info.

What were the key lessons you learned in 2019?

Let me know in the comments 👇💕