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From 'Gunna' to Doer: three keys to starting up smart

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Life has a handy way of providing members of the ‘gunna camp’ – gunna strike out on my own, gunna make the big leap, gunna do it next year – with all sorts of reasons to do it tomorrow, rather than start today.

For a long time I was a committed member of the ‘gunna’ camp but this month we officially left all that behind. We launched our brand Split It, an online comparison company that provides a simple and much more transparent way for people to compare a wide range of possible health insurance policies online.

I left behind a well-paid senior executive role at a financial institution to start a company that takes on the secretive online broker industry. I made that decision to leap – even though I have a young family of four. So what made me do it? In reality it was very subtle – three things called confidence, perspective, and balance.

Confidence: Choose your own attitude

The first thing that changed was my confidence. For me, there were two key sources for this – both from within myself, and through my wife Tam.

My own confidence levels, like anyone’s, are subject to change frequently during the day, depending on how good or bad conversations, deeds and actions evolve with people who interact with and affect the business. I’m confident in the vision for the business, but constantly buffeted by both support and adversity.

My clever wife Tam, on the other hand, is a constant source of confidence in me, inspiring consistency and clarity through her own attitude to the most important thing in her life, managing our family.

As mother of four energetic kids under the age of nine, Tam truly understands prioritisation and multi-tasking, demonstrating every day the required skill sets of a start-up CEO. She quickly dismisses the distracting minutiae and cuts straight to the key questions, and helps me do the same – asking how urgent is this, how is this important to the business, or relevant to the family? Tam is also confident that I’ll succeed and because she is pretty much always right, that inspires a newfound level of confidence in myself.

Perspective: Thinking outside the box

When I looked at life from inside my corporate bubble, all I could see were the four walls of the company and how important the daily cycle of people, politics and prioritisation seemed.

Then, something changed around my 35th birthday – I began having regular conversations with a number of business coaches who helped me see that I was viewing my options from a very narrow lens: my own.

Apparently, I was flat out having a conversation in my own head that gave lots of excuses about why I shouldn’t step out on my own. The reality was that I could choose to sit and listen to these reasons or just get in there and give it a crack.

From then on, whenever I’d realise that I was spending time making excuses, I’d take a few deep breaths and step outside to think differently. I started to realise that I was getting caught up in my own self-fulfilling prophesy. Since then, having a reminder to take another perspective on any given issue (big or small) has served the business well so far.

Balance: The juggling act

Now for a word on balance. It is easy to get wrapped up in the urgency and pace of running a new, small company. It is constantly on your mind, a constant, demanding presence. But if I didn’t balance those demands with quality time (being both physically and mentally present) with family and friends, it’s easy to risk losing the most important source of perspective on why we are all working so hard.

Personally, I try to do a couple of school/kinder/creche drop-offs a week, get home in time so we can all eat together (and we know how early kids need to eat), as well as getting out and about each weekend. This also gives back energy, reinforces a sense of joie de vivre and gives even the most business-addled brain a break, so it can focus better when it needs to.

Boost your own energy

Take the time to write a few things down to remind you how to keep your perspective, boost your confidence and find new ways to seek the right balance between work and family. That way, when things run off the rails a little, you’ll have strategies to help get you back on track.

Nowadays I’m a ‘doer’, not a ‘gunna’, no longer part of an established financial institution but CEO of a start-up, and we use multiple perspectives, a growing sense of self-confidence and remain mindful of striking the right balance to help keep the momentum we need to continue learning, and succeed.

Tim Andrew is CEO of Split It, an online comparison service that helps customers choose from a wide range of possible health insurance policies. The name ‘Split It’ refers to the startup’s practice of paying customers at least half of the commission earned after purchasing a plan through the site.

An earlier version of this article originally appeared at dynamicbusiness.com.au.

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