In the middle of June I moved to Los Angeles in order to help grow the US arm of DisruptSports . Fast forward a few months to the start of November; I was riding my bicycle from my apartment to a client meeting a few roads away. As I was coming to a cross-section a bus (large SUV) jumped across two lanes of traffic and hit me head on, leaving me out cold in the middle of the road.
An ambulance, several emergency operations, a new passport, a 15hr flight, 8 broken bones, 5 plates, 32 screws and several weeks in hospital later — here are the seven things I’ve learned and how it applies to startups.
What’s your 80/20?
I’m typing this with just my left hand and left eye, needless to say I’m operating below 100%. It’s made me realise that I have an 80/20 — 80% of key results driven activity comes from 20% of my work. Have a look through your to do list and see how much of it is your absolutely top results driving work? Clear you diary and just do more of that. Get rid of the crap and busyness, we all need a regular wake up to this.
Strong team. Strong processes
This is something that hits me pretty hard.
I’ve been working on a new piece of tech with a couple of external developers to bring our print-on-demand capabilities to music e-commence stores such as KISS. I’d been keeping this new team fairly stealth as to not distract the team working on the wholesale business until it was ready. I got hit by a bus. Orders were coming in to a place no one had access to, very few people had experience with, and was materially different from our existing process; added to that we were headed toward Black Friday, the busiest day of the year and you can imagine the panic. We lacked process. We lacked shared team knowledge. We now lacked the one person who knew what was going on — we had a “key man risk”. This was a failure in my leadership and it serves as a strong reminder that no man is an island.
Fortunately we have a very smart and “can do anything” team who huddled around, divided jobs and manually pieced together parts of the new system to an old system until I was back on board. They are superstars and I’m incredibly grateful to have each of them in my life, not just my work life. Review your key-man bottlenecks regularly.
We’ve invested heavily over the years in technology. Automation at this time has been a savior and a savage. It helped our printers run at full capacity without anyone needing to touch artwork. However a small mistake that I didn’t pick up with our shipping automation has cost a small fortune in addition charges. As a rule if the same tasks needs to be done more than three times a day, find a way to automate it or watch it bottleneck over time.
Stop comparing yourself
I see all the time, people comparing their business to someone else who raised more capital, sold more widgets or made it the front page of TechCrunch. I’ve been on my own journey with this, getting frustrated, angry and emotional comparing myself to my “pre accident self”. A wise man told me that recovery, much like business, it’s only against yourself and your recent performance. Stop comparing yourself and your business, and get on with beating your “yesterday self” — you can always do better than that guy.
Celebrate the wins
Not being able to do sport, exercise, work or have the energy to socialise sucks, but everyday I’m stronger, everyday I push myself to do more — to walk the shop and back, to meet a friend for coffee or today, get back on a gym bike for 13mins. Today was the greatest day of my life and I punched the air having achieved that small goal, the level of gratitude I feel cannot be understated. Often in life (and in business) we constantly search for what next — a new team member, a better product or a bigger customer. It’s important to stop, reflect and celebrate even the smallest of wins. Look back, consider where you’ve come from, be grateful and celebrate those wins as a team, life is made up of lots of little wins.
Nothing comes above your health
Ultimately, it’s all you have. Nothing is more important, remind yourself of that regularly and don’t trade your physical or mental health for that extra hour behind the desk.
Invest in your network
I’ve been guilty of neglecting lots of aspects of life as we got Disrupt started, most noticeably my friends, family and personal relationships. These people that mean the most are often the ones that receive your least, you assume they will always be there and that you don’t need to put the effort it. You do. Both personally and professionally, invest in your network, look at how you can help others and be grateful when people help you. Don’t take people’s presence in your “team” for granted.
That’s it. Hopefully you never have to experience these lessons for yourself.
And now it’s back to preparing for a grueling 14min ride tomorrow.
Gary Elphick is the founder of DisruptSports, an customised sports equipment and merchandise manufacturer.
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