It seems to me that the growth of a business up from a solo founder is like a slinky.
From the outside, when you look at it, it looks like a solid column. It has substance, it takes up space. Nobody’s really going to poke it unless the founder is like me and intentionally pokes it to see what happens, and then shines a light on it, saying to everyone else, hey come look at this!
It’s like a slinky because it grows and spirals up; and shrinks and spirals down. The only way it’s not like a slinky is that each time it spirals down, it doesn’t spiral down as far. A slinky tends to just keep going down the stairs…
What a poor analogy. Maybe a spring would have been a better one. (But then the picture wouldn’t have been as pretty.)
Why is Pixie like a slinky? Well right now even though my team is getting smaller again, we’re in a far better position for bringing in new people as needed. Unlike last time, we have more sophisticated scheduling, briefing and systems. Bringing someone on will be far easier and much faster than last time.
Yep, you read that right; the team is getting smaller. When I offered my best writer a position rather than a contract, I learned that she’s dropping her contract work in just over a month’s time. She’s doing it for the best possible reason: Her books are doing so well now that she doesn’t need to do the contract work.
Yep, you bet your arse this happens. And Steff is entirely self-published. I regularly encounter people who dream of this but refuse to self-publish, and in my opinion they are idiots. Now, back to Steff: If you don’t mind really hot, NSFW, explicit paranormal romance, go buy her books. (They are amazing. Of course. She’s the best writer I’ve ever worked with - and I’ve worked with a lot.) Steff also did me a bit of a favour, because it turns out that directly employing someone who resides in another country is a headache of monumental proportions.
As a result, I’m picking up more of the doing.
During the week I put a call out for experienced journalists. What I got in return was not one journalist, but a whole lot of people without the relevant skills or experience, but who like to write and/or think they’re pretty good at it.
Now, I don’t know about you. But if someone puts out a call for highly experienced specialists in - oh I don’t know - accounting - would you put your hand up because you ‘like maths’? No, of course not. So why the hell do people do it with commercial writing roles? Just because you can write it doesn’t mean you can do the work that we do, just as being able to add doesn’t mean you can do someone’s company books.
Writing commercially for a brand with a reputation that is just shy of Chanel isn’t like picking up a writing gig for a street paper. It’s really different and it has extremely different outcomes. Apparently many people don’t understand this.
My devious, long-term plan is, of course, to bring in absolute juniors on cadetships. I’m cogitating on an agency cadetship, and as soon as I have the hours available, the cashflow, and the space in my own schedule to dedicate training time to cadets, I am going to roll it out.
The greatest challenge is, of course, building room for sales and growth while still being so hands-on. But small steps turn into long journeys. While I’m five years into this tangle, I’m slowly working out which way the knots turn. Right now, it’s the millionth iteration of work cycles and schedules. Where is the space? Where is the overflow? How does that flow work without falling over? It’s the kind of tangle that just doesn’t exist to the same extent in non-solo-founder businesses.
On a personal note, the most persistent limiting thought in my world right now is, Do I even need to do this? I know I do. I don’t know why, but I know I do. It would be easier to let it all go and just function as a freelancer until totally squeezed for time, but that sounds like loads more stress to me. I know it’s not the usual way; but usual means ‘current, in currency, or valid’; and unusual doesn’t necessarily mean it’s invalid. It simply means it takes longer.
There is something in our instantaneous society that makes us believe that we need to work 24/7; that longer is not better; that patience is a rude word. And depending on which of the etymologies you choose, patience is either willing to bear adversities, indulgence or supporting or even unyielding. Somehow I feel like my current situation is illustrative of a slice of all four.