(Start up) Life is a Rollercoaster

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Tue. 25th April 2017.

The great philosopher Ronan Keating once sang, “Life is a Rollercoaster”. And it certainly is when you start up and run your own business. There are huge ups and downs, from both an income and emotional perspective.

My personal journey into business started in late April 2014 when the shock of redundancy after 26 years with Rolls-Royce plc turned into the excitement, uncertainty, trepidation, challenge and opportunity of starting a business. Here are a few thoughts and lessons I’ve learnt from my first three years.

Do what you enjoy doing

Starting up a business is a chance to do the things you really enjoy doing rather than the things you have to do. My background was originally in engineering and I then moved into people development and Human Resources roles. But, what I really enjoyed was the work around people development. So, the aspect I chose to focus my business on was developing people and teams. Working on what you enjoy gives you the motivation, energy and satisfaction to keep going. If you don’t enjoy what you do, there’s no point.

Identify your values and purpose

Your values are the things that are most important to you from a personal and work perspective. They guide your behaviour and your choices. They form the basis of your decisions. They’re the foundation on which you build your business. If you align your work with your values, you’ll feel much more fulfilled and energised. The values that are important to me and my business are growth, partnership, delivery, professionalism, creativity, flexibility and enjoyment.

Your purpose is the one thing that fundamentally drives you. It’s why you do what you do. It’s why your business exists and is likely to be linked to one of your values. The purpose of my business is ‘Growth’. I really want to develop and grow people and teams so that they can grow businesses.

Set your vision and goals

Set yourself a vision for where and what you want your business to be. This is your ultimate big goal. Be ambitious and think sufficiently far ahead to give yourself time to work to get there. Make that vision real to you by capturing what you’ll see, hear and feel when you achieve it. Represent it in a way that works for you and gives you the motivation to deliver it.

Once you have your vision, break it down into a series of goals. These goals form the plan of how you’ll move towards achieving your vision. Set goals that cover several periods of time. Set one year goals, six month goals, three month goals and monthly goals. You don’t need to work on all your goals at once. Focus on a few, achieve them and then move on to your next ones. Review your goals regularly and set further ones as you need to.

For me, writing a book was something I’d wanted to do for a long time. I set myself a goal to do it when I started my business. I’d already got the content that I use in workshops and coaching sessions so I turned that into a practical workbook and self-published.

Have an apprentice mentality

My last permanent role at Rolls-Royce plc was running the apprentice and graduate training schemes. Moving from a senior level position with 26 years of service to being a nobody in my new business world came as a real shock. I had to have an apprentice mentality.

I’d never run a business before. I’d never had to do sales and marketing, accounts, VAT, social media, networking, product development and so on. I was learning from scratch. I sought out all the help, advice and mentoring I could find, and listened to all that was offered to me. I learnt by observing how other people did things and what they did – those who’d been in business several years and those who were also just setting up. I tried things out to see what worked and what didn’t for me and my situation.

I’m now often asked for advice, and the lessons I learnt, by other people beginning their business start-up journeys. I’m happy to share what worked for me and what didn’t (and what I continue to learn) as people took the time to help me.

Be resilient  

Starting and running your own business is difficult. There are times when things are going well and times when things are really hard. There may be times when you question whether you’ve done the right thing, or whether you should go back and work for someone else. You’ll see other people doing similar things to you, but who appear to be more successful. You’ll wonder what you’re doing wrong as whatever you try doesn’t hit the mark.

It’s vital that you’re resilient and keep believing in what you’re doing. Keep working towards your vision for your business and don’t compare yourself to others.

Review and learn continuously

As you move forward with your business, continuously review how things are going. Evaluate what’s working and what’s not working. Review where your investment of time and money is best spent.

The sort of areas I continuously review are the networking groups I attend, my marketing approaches, my offerings and services and my business model.

Be willing to learn from the good and bad experiences. Build on the good and avoid repeating the bad.

Be flexible and adaptable

Linked to reviewing and learning is a need to be flexible and adaptable. You’ll need to be open to change. If something doesn’t work, learn from it and try something else. Don’t let your pride get in the way of improving your business. Be humble enough to admit what you need to do differently.


Running your own business gives you greater flexibility and control over your time. Use that opportunity to share your experience and expertise by volunteering. This can help to build your skills and confidence in areas that are important to your business, but also give something back. Since starting my business I’ve become a Trustee of a charity, a volunteer with the ‘Inspiring The Future’ organisation and a mentor for students at a couple of local universities.

So, was the decision to start up my own business the right one for me? Absolutely. I love the choice, flexibility, challenge and learning that self-employment brings.

To misquote Ronan again,

Life in business is a rollercoaster,

Just gotta ride it.


About the author

I set up AWD Development Solutions in April 2014 after a 26-year career at Rolls-Royce plc. I’m a professionally qualified people development specialist with an initial background in engineering so my solutions are practical and pragmatic. I’ve worked globally in senior Employee Development and Human Resources positions.

The purpose of AWD Development Solutions is to help businesses and organisations to grow by building and developing high performing teams, and developing highly effective team leaders and team members to improve team performance.

If you’d like to talk about how I could help you develop yourself, your teams or your business then please get in touch.


, goals, lessons learned, purpose, values, vision, start up