In the 17 years it took me to build Pacific Direct into a multimillion dollar business, I drove myself very hard. From the day I started, at 23, a second sense told me I had to keep myself in peak fitness to succeed. My trainers and my swimming costume were always packed and ready to go. I still run up escalators and if there are stairs, I take them.
In my last year of owning the company, I traveled 221 nights, sleeping upright on planes to save money on hotel rooms and and rarely staying in lodgings ranked higher than three stars. My body twitched with exhaustion, sending me messages to slow down and breathe. I was more stressed than I suspect I admitted.
My determination to succeed separated me from my family but, taking on board good advice from my elders, I made sure I never missed what I perceived to be a landmark childhood event. Sports days, nativity plays, and, of course, speech days.
Over this journey, not only did I learn many important business lessons along the way, but also valuable life and leadership skills too.
1. BUILD A POSITIVE CULTURE
An open culture at work adds real value to the company. I believe all players work hard for each other and I’ve learned the team only works if no one is an island. Respect each individual as an individual. Every person adds value to the team effort; make sure they know this. Mistakes will always happen and that’s OK.
Ensure there are no witch hunts after by embedding a continual improvement process and mindset. It’s so much more valuable that everyone learns from any mistakes and everyone moves on without disrupting the momentum of the team.
2. EMPLOY ‘SMART AND FAST’
If you do make a miss-hire and your gut tells you so, act fast, release and always reach out to the next person you keep on file, just in case.
Recruit well — employ the best hires you can so that you can go further faster and expect greater returns. I’m a great believer that you save an awful lot of pain if you hire an expert. I do take great leaps of faith when I employ people and if I do make a mistake and take on someone who turns out not to be a team player, I know I must likewise make a swift decision to remove them.
3. GO WITH YOUR GUT, BUT HAVE A BUSINESS PLAN
Pair your instinct with a way to review your business plan to remind you of your venture’s core business.
Second time round, I’m building a brand around my lifeline at Pacific Direct — an aromatherapy brand to breathe renewed positivity into our busy lives. However, I honestly never saw the whole trend of mindfulness coming. My feeling was that someone needed to modernize aromatherapy and I knew first hand from dark times at Pacific Direct that therapy-grade essential oils do work. The Scentered mantra and ritual — Stop. Inhale. Reset — gives the customer a moment of time, which is just the best commodity anyone could possibly sell. At Scentered we sell well-being. I continue to make mistakes, but these teach me which paths not to progress and highlights which strategies are unaffordable. I follow my gut, and it serves me well. If you don’t, you are likely to live to regret it and who has time for regrets? Learn from a review but move on fast and recover quickly from mistakes so you can learn from yet another error.
4. TAKE ONE (FAST) STEP AT A TIME
Business is a race, so you need a relentless desire to continuously improve. Focus on one thing at a time, irrespective of all the other demands that come your way. It is better to do one thing well rather than a leave a couple of tasks half-baked. I read, “The Power of Focus” and realized what a huge amount of energy I wasted trying to juggle too many options. Learn to say no; it is the most important skill. It also enables me to be brutally direct in my desire to milk every moment out of every opportunity.
5. FIND REASONS TO CELEBRATE, INNOVATE
Celebrate even when times are tough. Look for incremental innovations that keep you one step ahead of the rest. I believe that you are what you choose to be in life and you can choose to surround yourself with people, lessons, tactics and methods for coping with tough-life challenges. Reward yourself especially in the tough times as small rewards go a long way. There is always something happening, somewhere, to celebrate. Find it and build on a new potential.
6. KEEP FIT, HEALTHY AND RESTED
Your body tells you when you need sleep. Listen to it! Money does not buy you health and well-being; you must work at these things. Make choices to eat healthily and exercise daily. I often walk (very fast) between meetings. I get calls done and I stretch my legs at the same time. Learn to get more value out of everything you do and remember there is no such thing as perfect; just be grateful for every healthy day. Get up early so you’re then ahead in this race, this game called business. If it is not fun, make it so.
7. HAVE HUMILITY BUT DON’T LACK CONFIDENCE
Read everything about your industry and strive to be an expert. Be engaged, be aware and notice the small things. I truly believe that you can build and drive confidence through well-being. When you’re fit and healthy — and you know you’re looking good and you feel good about your inner and outer self — you’ll be more able to take chances, put yourself into challenging places and expose yourself to seemingly uncomfortable environments, to achieve significantly positive outcomes, especially in the tougher times. I find this enormously energizing and empowering. A positive mindset is pivotal to leading a life full of exciting experiences and meeting interesting people.
YPO member Lara Morgan is a motivational speaker, entrepreneur, Co-Founder and CEO of British-based portable aromatherapy brand Scentered.me. as well as other investments in products that save time and improve lives. Her best-selling book, “More Balls Than Most,” advises how to build a successful business and still have a life.