When Mark Asquith was a child, he had no dreams for what he hoped to become when he grew up. Instead, he just meandered through life. He gave music college a go, worked for his dad as an electrician and moved from Barnsley to Crawley where he worked in an office.
The time he spent meandering along for a few years is what helped him to realise that’s not how he wanted to spend the rest of his life.
He could have stayed put in his grey job, working for eight hours a day with people he nothing in common with, or he could have earned a little extra money for a fancy title making money for someone else. Mark was bored and made the logical decision to quit his job.
From there, he did whatever was obvious. He fancied making plenty of money, so he trained people on using IT systems where he could do just that.
And his enjoyment of web design led to an agency which he’s still in charge of 12 years later.
Since that lightbulb moment, he’s only ever done what he wanted, now he runs a business as well as helping other business owners his through blogs, podcasts, and other resources. And he’s going to help you to start doing what you want to do.
Business Owner or Entrepreneur?
Mark doesn’t think of himself as an entrepreneur, but rather someone who just gets stuff done whilst providing people with things they want. Instead of concentrating on being an entrepreneur, he thinks people should instead be business owners.
While running a business is fun and fulfilling, it’s hard work.
Most people set up their business with the dream to have more freedom, but you actually end up giving yourself less freedom. In order to actually get paid, you need to manage yourself properly.
Although Mark may not have a boss, he still accountable to of his clients. And if he has 50 clients, then he has 50 bosses.
So why are we doing it? For many, it’s because they simply cannot not do it.
Thankfully for Mark, when he suffered from burnout it didn’t leave him unable to move and depressed. However, he did get to a point where he couldn’t focus and he found the things he was doing were not having an effect on the business.
He was doing the things which interested him, and not the things which were actually important. And that lead to an emotional and mental burnout.
It actually got to a point where he had no interest in what they were doing and dreaded receiving an email or phone call. He just didn’t want to deal with things.
Before then, he’d never suffered from fear of the things he was doing, and that change made him see that things were not right.
So Mark took just enough time out to see the things which were important in the business. And he decided he was going to stop doing the things he hated.
When he took time out, nothing happened when he didn’t reply to emails within two minutes. It’s an unnecessary stress which we put on ourselves.
We don’t judge other people because it takes them 24 or 48 hours to reply to an email, and people are unlikely to judge you back. You can have a day off and life will just carry on.
And when he stopped, he just stopped. And when he came back, he focused only the things which made an actual difference. It was a turning point for him.
Work To Suit You
You have to do what you enjoy doing. You also must make sure that it is impactful enough that you’re going to make a difference doing it.
So when you pick which passion to pursue, it needs to be something which people are actually going to be willing to pay for.
Of course, as a start-up business, you’ll be doing everything yourself. As you begin to build a team, you can figure out what you like and don’t like doing, as well as the things which other people could do far better than you.
That way, you can free up your time to allow you to focus on more important tasks.
A few years ago Mark wrote a free book The 14 Day Guide to Cutting Your Working Hours & Increasing Your Impact. So when looking at streamlining his own workload, he went back through the process himself.
He analysed his days and figured out the tasks he did. From that, he could work out which of his duties he could delegate.
And whilst doing that, it’s also important to listen to your own body. He knows that after lunchtime he may as well not be at work, so he changed his working hours to between 7 am and 1 pm.
With the rest of his day, he is then free to do as he fancies.
It’s not about the hours you work, but how you work those hours.
To do that yourself, you need to have the confidence to not feel guilty for not staying until 5 pm just because you feel you should set a good example.
On top of that, avoid working with people you don’t want to work with. You are never going to get on with everyone, and that’s fine, so don’t make yourself work with them.
Don’t Accept Bad Money
To keep your business moving forward and making positive strides, be strong enough to not allow bad money into your business.
This is anything which your gut tells you is not going to work, such as when someone doesn’t want to pay your usual rate.
Once you work with clients you don’t get along with, or who try to bash you down on price, it’s hard to break that cycle. Once it’s in there, it’ll always be there and you’ll have clients who don’t value you as they should.
To turn that around, it takes some bold decisions, such as sacking 80% of your clients or stopping a certain type of work.
In the end, it all comes back to enjoying what you do. In his web design business they used to do SEO, but despite the good money, they didn’t enjoy it. So, they no long do it.
Taking The Leap
Books are full of people telling you to quit your job in order to start a business, but Mark suggests ignoring such aspirations when you’re looking to start.
You wouldn’t jump off a cliff without a parachute, so don’t take the leap of quitting your job without a plan.
Before you jump off a cliff, you would normally make sure the parachute will work and ensure it’s on your back.
That doesn’t mean don’t do it, but instead, do it in a way which allows you to find your own pace of change. Going from an employed person to a self-employed person is very hard, and you still need to be able to pay the mortgage and the bills.
Instead, take steps towards it. Find time where you can develop it yourself and spend time around those who may want it so they can validate the business.
There is no shame in taking the time to make sure you can see the stepping stones and plotting a course between where you are now, and where you’re going to be.
Mark’s Excellence Expected started out as a podcast but has now grown into a hub of information where business owners can go for help. He aims to help people in their first few years of business, and those who are diversifying. That way, they don’t have to learn the hard way – from their own mistakes.
Connect with Mark