Now We Are One: 4 Lessons I’ve Learned

When I was One,
I had just begun.

-A.A Milne

We recently celebrated our 1 year anniversary at our Cabbagetown Studio. To mark the occasion, we invited friends, colleagues, clients and strangers to eat cheese and drink beer with us. We had some good times.

Although it’s the first year in which The Social Smiths has had a home outside of my crowded little den/LOTR memorabilia room, March 15th marks the 4th year since The Social Smiths officially existed on paper. It’s with that anniversary in mind I’d like to share 4 things I’ve learned since beginning my journey as an entrepreneur.

1. Hire people, as early as possible

When I was working solo, I was a lean, mean, money-making machine. For the first time in half a dozen years, I actually had… like… a savings account! And zero credit card debt! It was glorious, raking in payments I got to hoard in my no-longer empty bank account. I even started contributing again to my long dormant RRSP and TFSA accounts. That being said: I was working long ass hours, and burn-out was on the horizon.  Also of concern: the little pink Christina-Agulera-Monsters that used to dance in my periphery after pulling back-to-back all-nighters in uni had launched a reunion tour. Something had to give.

For me, it was time to build a team.

The first thing I did was to bring in someone who could handle my admin, as like many entrepreneurs- I suck at that stuff. I managed to totally luck out by nabbing a newly minted MBA with a background in entertainment and the arts. Following that, I brought in a talented artist and writer who helped take some of the creative load off my back so I had more time to work ON my business instead of IN it. 2 years later, Miroki Tong and Larissa Thomas still work with The Social Smiths, along with several other creators you can creep on our home page. Although a lot of the business advice out there says you should stay as lean as you can for as long as you can, I wouldn’t trade the creative energies and valuable input from my team for anything.

2. Give yourself a break

As you likely gleaned from my above anecdote, I’m a recovering workaholic. There were times in my past when I worked 16 hour days on the regular, occasionally forcing myself to stay awake for days on end to complete deadlines and deliverables. Part of the reason I left the NPO I’d been working with for 5 years was because I knew I couldn’t keep working 60-80+ hours each week.

I promised myself The Social Smiths would be different: I’d make time to sleep, to cook, maybe start knitting? Initially, teaching myself how to relax was surprisingly tough. I still struggle with putting too much on my plate, but with the help of my Bullet Journal and an awesome therapist, I make time to bake bread.

3. Go to therapy

The fact that therapy isn’t 100% covered by OHIP in the same way your GP visits are, is utterly infuriating. Mental health is health. Jeez. As a busy, stressed, and overwhelmed entrepreneur, you’re going to need someone to talk to. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with your close friends and family is a great coping strategy, but trust me: they will get sick of hearing you talk about your business. And even if they don’t start screening your calls b/c they’ve heard you bitch about how shitty Facebook for Business’ management tools are a dozen times, it’s just not fair to constantly overburden them with your anxieties. Therapy is an investment in your business, and I’d argue it’s a lot more important to spend money on than a state-of-the-art laptop. Too bad you can’t write it off..

Even if you feel you have the healthiest brain and attachments in the world, it can’t hurt to talk to a professional who’s impartial, objective, and, trained to help you brain better. It does wonders for the think.

4. Let shit go

Sometimes, you gotta just throw your hands up in the air and say “fuck it.”

Take a breath, take a break, take a brisk walk. You can always come back to the challenge at hand, and hopefully with a fresh perspective. Grinding away at a problem CAN work, but if you find yourself in this position frequently then all you’re going to do is dull your critical thinking skills and set the precedent that working harder is better than worker smarter. Learning to let go of projects or products that just aren’t finding an audience is another important aspect of the “let shit go” perspective- trust your clients and consumers to tell you what their needs are, then listen.

Cheers to the next 4 years of making new mistakes!



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