The Best Thing to Happen to Me in 2016…
…E-Dressage Ltd being forced to close.
I’m not sure that’s quite what you expected, was it? After all, why would I want a company that I had been slaving away to build for over 2 and a half years forced into closure?
Allow me to explain…
How it all began
I started my first business 9 years ago, when I was just 19 years old. Since then I have been unable to hold down an employee position for longer than 8 months – I always quit and walk out because I hate being an employee.
In 2014, I started E-Dressage Ltd with just £25 and grew it to a six-figure turnover without any additional finance or credit facilities – not even a simple overdraft. At one point, I grew the business 600% in the space of 6 months.
It was not long before E-Dressage owned the online dressage market, receiving over 30% more entries per month than its closest competitor.
That all sounds great doesn’t it? …but in truth, it’s like being the world’s tallest dwarf.
Actually, I hadn’t built myself a business at all; I created myself a job. A job that demanded my attention for 70+ hours every single week and that kept me permanently chained to my laptop or smartphone.
The difference between a business and a job
A business is something that can run without you; it’s a series of processes and functions that work together to create a well-oiled machine. A business is something that you can sell and exit from if you choose to do so.
If the business needs you in order to trade and function, then it’s not a business. You’ve just created yourself a job – a job that probably pays you very low wages takes up every bit of your time and energy and gives you a lot of headaches. Which is exactly what I had.
Now, reality check here, a lot of businesses have, and will, start off this way. One-man-bands that have, and will, grow into huge corporations that can run without their founders needing to babysit it.
However, what we tend to see more of is people running “businesses” for 4, 5, maybe 7 or more years with the dream of growing into a large corporate company, but without pushing it or doing anything different along the way. The result is that their accountancy figures each year hardly ever change, and they remain with their “job”.
Most people who run small businesses/jobs, who are chained to their desk every day, probably aren’t aware of this concept. They’re just on a conveyor belt. Doing the same daily tasks without ever looking at the bigger picture, hoping that one day it will just magically grow.
If they were aware of this concept, they would be doing something about it, i.e. aggressively growing their business or closing their business and moving on. Otherwise they would be slightly insane (“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.” – Albert Einstein) as who would want to work longer hours, with more stress, receive less pay compared to industry standards, and not see their business growing to the point where it can function without them?
The only exception to this rule would be if they absolutely, head-over-heels, loved their job. In which case, congratulations! You’ve got yourself a nice little self-employed role (even if it’s within a Ltd company) that you can live out your days doing.
But I got into business and entrepreneurship for the freedom….and truthfully, I wasn’t feeling very free.
At the end of 2015, I realised that I had created this job for myself and I decided that I didn’t want it.
So, I made the decision that in 2016 I would either aggressively grow E-Dressage to the point of it being able to partially run without me (at least enough so I could take a few days off) or, I would break it and close it.
Either way, I was going all in.
As mentioned previously, the online dressage market was microscopic and even though we were number one, it was like being the world’s tallest dwarf, so we branched out into other avenues.
E-Dressage moved into its own premises and I was in my office at 7.30am every morning and didn’t leave until 9.30pm (sometimes later) and I was in the office every weekend. I worked my face off!
Most of my team were self-employed and consisted of a virtual assistant, magazine editor, podcast producer, several blog/article writers and dressage judges. I took on a full-time employee at the beginning of the year, bringing the team to a total of 9.
We planned a huge Autumn Ball and awards evening, but due to not enough award finalists attending the evening, we sadly had to cancel last minute. We were so gutted that we had to pull out because the event was set to be spectacular – the stuff that we had booked and planned would have ensured an evening like no other!
We also upgraded our Success Diaries, which are a popular product and a huge part of our business. The first year we released them they generated £27,000 in one month alone, so we had high hopes for them this following year.
Part of that upgrade was from a plastic coil-bound book to a wire-bound hardback book, which meant that we had to change printers. After placing and paying for an order of 2000 Success Diaries, none of the products ever arrived and we never saw our money again.
Needless to say, we didn’t pull off what we had planned and it all went a bit tits-up. Two large financial hits (the Autumn Ball and the Success Diaries) in the space of 6 weeks was just too much to take and on the 29th November 2016, E-Dressage Ltd ceased trading due to being insolvent.
I later put the company into voluntary liquidation.
Did I push it too hard?
From a business point of view, yes. I most certainly pushed it too hard and too quick. A more patient approach spread over 2-3 years probably would have ensured its survival and growth.
From a personal point of view, no I didn’t. I pushed it as much as I needed to. I knew that I didn’t want that job anymore. So for me, it was ‘go hard or go home!’
Am I upset that it closed?
I am upset for our members who loved E-Dressage and supported us since day one. On the day we ceased trading we were inundated with so many loving messages, of which I am so grateful for – it took me over a week to read them all! And I know that I will remain good friends and in contact with most of our members.
I am also upset for the people who lost money in the closure of E-Dressage. That wasn’t my intention and I would have preferred the company’s closure to have caused less damage. But in the harsh reality of things, that’s business. Thankfully, individual consumers have been protected via PayPal’s Buyer Protection and by their banks.
But for me personally, I am not upset that it closed. It is just a business at the end of the day, and I have learnt over the years to emotionally detach. Unfortunately, not all other related businesses were able to the same and I received quite a few nasty emails.
I had set up 2016 as a ‘make it or break it’ year, and I fulfilled my aim. I would have been upset if I just dwindled along for a year with this “job” that stole every waking hour of my life, and that wasn’t producing the rewards that I had wanted.
Here’s to the next adventure
The best thing to happen to me in 2016 was E-Dressage Ltd being forced to close. I am finally free again and I plan to be doing a lot of travelling in 2017 – something that I have not managed to do much of.
I will be blogging along the way; sharing pictures and experiences from my travels. I do hope you will join me.
Check out my travel blog to keep up to date with the adventures.
On this blog, I’ll be sharing my general thoughts along with hints and tips about how I work online and make an income from my laptop. It’s these skills that allowed me to start and grow E-Dressage in the first place.
Here’s to the next adventure!
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