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November, 2021

21 Things I’ve Learned in 21 Years of Business

Opinion

Lizzi Whaley, CEO of Spaceworks, shares 21 things learnt after 21 years in business 

Spaceworks turning 21 feels like a milestone, even more so than 20 years. Maybe I relate it to the significance a 21st birthday still holds today in society.

Over that time frame I have learned so much, not only about business but about myself and about others. Owning a business often means I personally come last, the team, the business, the clients, the suppliers, all come first. However this is definitely not ‘oh poor me’, because I am well aware that the journey has provided me much growth and experience that money could not buy.

Following I list 21 learnings; I’m sure there will be more as the years unfold.

  • Relationships are King – that is with everyone, staff, clients, suppliers. There are and will be times when you will need to leverage the strength of your relationships
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – this is high risk, one I felt sorely when a major client went out of business
  • Don’t be friends with your staff – keep yourself at enough distance that you can lead and empathise but not so that you feel hurt when they chose themselves first.
  • Don’t be friends with your staff #2 – when you don’t learn it the first time. Remember discipline is impossible if you are ‘friends’
  • Pay yourself first – I know I will do everything to make sure Staff IRD & Rent is paid so paying yourself first means we are all looked after
  • People first, money second – I focus on the growth of my team, if they grow the net outcome is success for the business
  • People People People – If you look after your people, they will in turn look after your clients
  • Staff churn is good – new people bring new ideas. But obviously too much and there is a problem
  • Great Customer Journey is why we are here  – a great design is just one of the outcomes
  • Failure is another building block for success – I’m only afraid of failure if I can’t see an opportunity to learn from it

 

 

  • Take time to reflect – this allows space to improve or learn
  • Have a good finance team – People that know numbers and that can see opportunities
  • Communication is Key – this can not be underestimated. Miscommunication in my experience is the root of most problems.
  • Keep learning, be a sponge – I read, listen to podcasts, talk and surround myself with successful people.
  • Build a culture – a strong team culture helps you weather storms. Covid is a perfect example.
  • Cash is stability – having cash assists with choices, it gives strength as security.
  • Employ smarter than you – I sure have.
  • Business is not everything – for me I had to find as much joy in my personal life as work. Balance was key and allowed me to show up better at work.
  • Money is not the only measure of success – for us its about the people, internal & external
  • Let it flow – you can’t control the ride but you can contribute to it. For someone that finds security in control, this was a big one
  • Take risks – not all risks can be measured, you have to sometimes take a leap of faith.

‘Do what you love and it’s not work’ – for me this is a nonsense, it should be ‘Do what you love and showing up to do the work is easier’.

Lizzi Whaley
CEO