Reflections on business building

So much of what we do at Iscariot Media has been ad hoc, and/or incremental so over time we have taken on opportunities that have been outside our original goals. We started in 1994, delivering and creating Indigenous educational resources, and now in 2015, we’re working with clients in graphic design, building websites, business and communication strategy consultation, and art project management, as well as continuing to create Indigenous education resources. My 1994 business and my 2015 business are very different.

Not being anywhere as ‘cooked’ as I’d like the business to be, I wanted to reflect two decades on some of the challenges of growing and expanding.

While we’re never bored, and constantly challenged as we stretch outside our existing skills set, we’re also distracted from our core business.

It’s not easy, when you’re a very small business that is reliant on sub-contractors (ie. no full-time staff), to run increasing numbers of projects and increasing numbers of clients. Maintaining focus on our core business (developing Indigenous educational resources) has been difficult at times. The reality is that the Critical Classroom is our own brand, and the development of this brand is an internal pressure. Our client work on the other hand, is an external pressure. It’s much easier to push back deadlines for your internal projects in favour of external deadlines.

Because we’re adding new services all the time, we don’t necessarily have time to build systems around those services.

All successful businesses owners make the transition from working “in the business” to working “on the business” by creating systems. It takes time to develop systems. Because in many cases I’ve reacted to opportunities (a good example of this is social media services), I’ve found that there is lag time between when you start doing something new and the realisation that you’ve just add a new service that you can now offer. It takes time to incorporate new tasks and the wins/losses that accompany them, in order to adapt them into systems that make product delivery efficient.

I had no idea when I started way back in 1994, that I would be working with clients from all around Australia on their own businesses. It’s frustrating that I’ve moved myself away from developing Indigenous education resources (and every now and then, you’ll find me happily back there), but it’s also exciting. Over twenty years of being in business I guess I’ve learned a few things that I can give to others who are just starting out. But for me personally, it’s been a slow-cooker realisation that I know a thing or two and that I’m valuable to others.

Understanding that as we expand our networks, new opportunities arise.

From an objective angle, my career has not been super stellar career. I’m not one of the super-stars of my generation and that’s really fine with me. My CV is full of pot-holes, hard left turns and the odd u-turn. This is due partly because I inherited my father’s shot attention span, my own inherent curiosity, but also because since the age of 24 have been the primary carer for my four children. I’ve always worked. I was back at Nyumba weeks after Eddie was born, and I started working at Griffith Uni exactly 3 weeks after Gavin was born. I’ve done tutoring and sessional lecturing while babies have napped, and have breastfed babies while running tutes. Despite consistently working, by my own choice, I’ve more or less let my career take fifth place with my work life revolving around children and within Brisbane only. However, now that my youngest child is in her mid-teens, this year I’ve experienced the freedom to work, travel and network more than ever before. This has meant I’ve seen my network gradually expand. And  I’m beginning to realise that ‘networking’ in this sense is really just being able to meet new people and form stronger and deeper relationships. One sistah recently said to me “ah.. social capital.. network, network, network”. These relationships are beginning to mean further expansion of our business opportunities.

Whether you’re at the beginning of your business journey or in the middle of it, I say welcome to the club. It’s scary and exciting. It’s also tiring. You may not realise it yet, but you’ve swapped the 9 – 5, for 52/24/7 (yes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year). There is ALWAYS something to be done.But hopefully, it’s a world of your own making. You’re responsible for it. There’s power in being owner.

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