• The Business Owner

Business is Personal

Do you remember that moment on the film ‘Taken’, when Liam Neeson is searching for his abducted daughter who is being trafficked? He is in a lift and is pointing a gun at the perpetrator? The evil man says, “it was never personal, it is just business” and Liam replies “It is personal to me”. Well I identify with that within the business world. Several years ago, a pivotal moment in my self-worth, and the direction of my life that I took, was when an investor, who was brought onto a Board of a Company that I Founded, by one of the other major Shareholders. As we left the first meeting that she attended, she turned to me and said, “you know Penny, I don’t have to like you, it is just business, it isn’t personal’. Wow, I thought, this is going to be hell, and I was not wrong. My business was personal to me. It is where I place my values, my passion, my time, my energy and my desire to have impact.

I am in my 4th decade of business, thirty-seven years of commitment to the focus, disciplines and tenacity of business. Twenty-five of these years have been as my own boss, a business owner. Business has always been personal to me. The way I treat others, the values I hold, the integrity I live by and the joy I seek for myself and others. For many years I thought that business was my own private battle, I felt isolated from what appeared to me the reality of others. I had a mantra of “one day I will be a proper businessperson’, able to ‘cope’ with the nasty, the ruthless, the selfish and the self-focused. How times are now changing, thank goodness.

I stated ‘cope’ with, as I never wanted to be like ‘them’. I could hear words my mum said to me when I was a little girl, “Penny, never drop your standards to those of others’. I never did. However, that meant the daily grind of my ambitions and my inaccurate belief that I had to cope with how others behaved, take nastiness, bullying at times, on the chin. Afterall, I had to have shareholders in the businesses I was fast scaling, and I had to focus on the money that clients would provide to achieve the revenue targets., so abuse, assertive control and allowing my life to feel out of control by adapting to client’s was critical.

A study on mental health was published by Michael Freeman in 2015. This amazing psychiatrist and professor looked at anxiety, depression and stress, so commonly felt by those striving to build their own business. His statistics on his findings are exactly what I would imagine, "entrepreneurs are 50% more likely to suffer depression".

There will be a vast number of reasons for this, and perhaps you can think of the ones that resonate with you. For me, I discovered in 2017 following years of financial challenges with our global business, and many emotional traumas that impacted my family, that I had a type of depression, called ‘The Curse of the Strong’, a term coined (and a book by the same name), by Dr Tim Cantopher, Consultant Psychologist at The Priory. This is a hidden form of depression that impacts our resilience, self-worth and in time our ability to achieve success. Those of us in business that are driven by helping others, are very susceptible to this.

I discovered that I was not mentally unhealthy, however, I was just not mentally fit enough. I had poor self-care around my own needs, gave myself very little time to relax, placed myself at the very bottom of a large pile of tasks and had lost the reason I was working so much.

Since publishing my book “Business Is Personal", in January 2019, I have been overwhelmed with the number of business owners that have read (or listened to it) who have said that their business careers have been the same and that they too have reassessed the way they are now treating themselves. As the greatest asset within our businesses, is ourselves, yet we treat ourselves so poorly. My decision was to close the gap between my identity in the world as the ‘Founder of the first Social network, the ‘Penny Power OBE’ with the shiny life, and my truth. A determined effort to normalise the life of an entrepreneur so that anyone that feels they are ‘sub-normal’ in business, achieving less, finding it harder than others appear to, will feel ‘normal’ and let’s face it, the gap between normal to being exceptional is a lot shorter than the gap between ‘sub-normal and exceptional’. My truth shared, will help others. My journey after this self-discovery was the most powerful period in business I have ever had and has led me to build a business that is both lucrative, rewarding and completely around my personal definition of success. As a result, those clients I work with learn, like me to lead a business and life that is right for them. Once that is discovered, it is amazing what hidden joys you unlock and the financial rewards that ensue.

We live in unprecedented times, a feeling of ‘being out of control’, of days and days sitting in our homes working on Zoom and email. Not knowing when we will have the life that we all left before lockdown and this pandemic’. This is a time to reflect, create new habits and to really ask ourselves, how can I pivot my business life to that I am leading the life and business I truly want? It starts with acknowledging that Business IS Personal, then the rest is up to you. Finally, we are all craving truth, and as we regularly hear, “be the change that you want to see in the world’, first know your truth, and then live it.

Thanks to Penny Power for this insight.