Consistency breeds prosperity

Contrary to the popular song, the best things in life are not free. The best things in life come at the following costs:

Bottle of red – $20 (much under and you’re not invited to dinner)

Chocolate – $3 (Cadbury is still king)

Memory foam pillow – $200 (worth it)

Massage – $55 or $120 (depending on your risk tolerance)

Overseas holiday – $5,000 (those ‘Euro summer’ selfies don’t come cheap)

Therapy – $100-150 an hour (any less and you may as well rent my dog for the day)

The above is a list of the reasons why I work.

Whilst I’d love to be the token philanthropist who works endlessly for free. The above necessities cost money and therefore require me to have money in my bank account at all times. I’m okay with this, particularly because I’m one of the lucky few who get paid to do work I love.

But what I’ve come to realise is that ‘getting paid’ as an entrepreneur, certainly doesn’t come as easy as it did when I used to throw on my Gloria Jeans apron and dish out a coupla hundred coffees a day.

Working hard as a business owner takes on a whole new level of Arnie Schwarzenegger muscle. When you work for yourself, you have to work much, much harder to get those pennies in your pocket. And what’s more, if you’re working in a growing business, you’re last in line for those pennies.

So how does one do it? How do you make ends meet and earn enough keep for your weekly block of Fruit & Nut?

In my opinion, it comes down to consistency. You show up, every damn day.

I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by some pretty exceptional business owner friends, and the common thread that I see amongst those that are striding forward and feeling fulfilled by their work, is consistency. They know that it takes grit, determination and hard bloody yakka to see their dreams come true.

And whilst I don’t condone slogging it out to watch every second of your Apple Mac’s journey of depreciation, I have seen the rewards of consistently showing up to your desk, to your inbox, to your customers, to your staff and to your coffee machine.

Among my mates, there are a few that play with the brakes and accelerator of business like all the good taxi drivers of New York – it’s a game of Russian Roulette – they go hard and go home far too sporadically in my opinion. From what I’ve seen, this just leads to a lack of momentum, a feeling of exhaustion and stopping just short of the finish line each and every time.

Because the thing I believe, is that success isn’t built on strategy. Success is built through execution.

Having a consistent practice of showing up and doing the work is, in my view, far more valuable than any degree of talent or experience. It’s also far more valuable than the business idea itself, no matter how grand that lightbulb is. Having the world’s best talent coupled with the world’s best idea simply doesn’t cut it in the long haul. Being successful and bringing your vision to life is about doing the work and showing up. If you ask me, it’s the defining factor between failure and success.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. That’s a truckload of time, requiring some consistent behaviour and discipline to show up each and everyday and practice. It means putting in the effort, being engaged and interested, and above all, following through.

In my brief, but bracing, time as a business owner (who pays way too much attention to other businesses and how they’re run), I’ve been convinced that brilliance isn’t born, it’s built. Here’s why:

  1. Consistency leads to habits.

For better or for worse, our habits come to define us. Habits are creepy little things, they sneak up on us whilst we’re going about our daily lives and before we know it, they’ve latched onto our souls like permanent parasites. But if you can gain control over your habits, and form positive ones that ensure productive days and conscious choices, you can forge yourself into the person you want to become. My day starts when the sun rises, and from then it’s all systems go as I always do my best work before 9am. This habit allows me to pump out three hours of uninterrupted work before the phone starts ringing and my inbox starts filling. It’s a habit I’ve consciously cultivated for the majority of my working life and will (hopefully) stick to forever.

  1. Consistency creates accountability.

By consistently showing up and doing the work I’m unintentionally but very clearly telling the people around me that they can rely and depend on me. And in return, I give myself a sense of accountability, to be there for those people. Simply put, it’s a two-way street. As business owners, we consistently expect our employees to be accountable for their deliverables and goals. But what I think is even more important than that, is that they should be able to expect the same in return from our leadership. I put a priority on making time for and being available to my team whenever and wherever they need it – no if’s, but’s or maybe’s.

  1. Consistency establishes your reputation.

Just like your street cred, your business growth requires a track record of success. From my experience, it’s difficult to establish a track record if you are constantly shifting gears or failing to follow through. From what I’ve noticed, the majority of business objectives don’t fail before they get to the finish line because the strategy was flawed, but instead because the vision wasn’t played out right to the very end. If you’re showing up, doing the work and following through, you’re building on your reputation and staying relevant, just simply by putting one foot in front of the other.

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When I back look over my relatively short but sweet career trajectory so far, I’m well aware that I haven’t done anything amazing. I’ve just done the work consistently. And what I’ve noticed is that eventually you reach a point when success can’t outrun you anymore. Not when you’re steadily hunting it down with a dagger in your hand. Success is not about luck or a brilliant idea. It’s about stickability. The stickability to keep going, even when reason and distraction would suggest otherwise.

Image credit: Yoshinori Mizutani

Can branding ever be a once-and-done activity?

If I didn’t love writing so much this could have been a really short blog post.

It would simple read, ‘Is branding a once-and-done activity?’

Followed by a blunt ‘No.’

And then a link to this image.

But, for me, writing is fun… when I’m caffeinated that is. So lucky you, dear reader, you get to enjoy another rant and ramble from the inner workings of Tess’ coffee-fuelled brain.

Today, I’m talking branding and how I’m never going to let you get away with putting this aspect of your business in the ‘finished’ pile.

As the Apple example above deomnstrates, your brand is an ever evolving task and should continually be refreshed, reinvented and just like those toenails of yours, treated to some TLC every once in a while.

After wrapping up a branding project for a new startup recently, our client exclaimed, ‘Phewww, I’m glad that’s done.’ Which sent the hairs on the back of my neck up like little soldiers standing to attention.

‘Done?’ Oh hell no, sweetheart. This is jusssst the beginning. Your branding is never done.’ If it were as easy as a quick; find something you like doing, create a logo and make money, we’d all be filthy rich. But you’re smart enough to know that that’s not how business works.

Instead, no matter how many style guides, brand formulas, clever logos, or sexy fonts you string together, there’s still work to be done. Yes, even if you’re the cool, of-the-moment, gotta-have-it and tell-all-my-friends-about-it ‘people’s’ brand nipping at the big dogs’ heels and stealing market share, (Hi Glossier!), you’ll still have to constantly evolve your brand.

There is no bringing a note from Mum to get outta this one, I’m sorry friends!

Why you ask? Because the only way a brand is successful is if it resonates at an emotional and instinctual level with its dream customers, day-in, day-out. BUT, your dream customers evolve and change too. Nothing is stagnant. Well, actually the only thing that is stagnant is a brand that hasn’t evolved, and if that’s the case it’s probably 6 feet under.

Branding is, for the most part, an intangible entity. It’s not your epic new logo, your flashy new business card or your shiny Instagram feed. It’s not even your website or your products or your services. Your ‘brand’ is what other people perceive your business to be or to represent. And as Seth Godin, the king of all things good and holy puts it, branding is “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. Your logo is a referent, a symbol, a reminder of your brand. But your ‘brand’ is a story, a set of emotions and expectations and a stand-in for how we think and feel about what you do.”

He took the words right out of my mouth. As Seth implies, when branding is done right, it has power. Power to shape perception, power to influence choice and power to spark a new conversation.

BUT.

(And there’s always a but, you should know that by now.) Your brand is only as powerful as it is relevant. A brand that evolves over time, continues to win over hearts and satisfy the ever changing and evolving needs of its community is a powerful brand.

The reason you need to evolve your brand comes back to the definition of a brand itself. As we know, a ‘brand’ is not your logo, your product or latest Instagram picture – despite how great the lighting was. No, a brand is the ethos and the community of people that surround your product or service. So if brand is about creating community then it’s about belonging.

But the only way to truly belong, is to stay connected. Which means you need to evolve at the same pace as your community.

Seth backs me up when he says, you should “spend 10,000 times as much time and money on your brand as you spend on your logo.”

Kareene Koh, partner at, Deloitte Digital, agrees failing to evolve your brand comes at a cost to your business, “Our survey found that businesses whose brands stagnated over the past year also saw their revenues fall by 13% on average over this period,” she said. “For a business with annual revenue of $1 billion, this represents a potential fall of $130 million in revenue.”

Both Kareene and Seth are my virtual homies. They get why I’m utterly obsessed with brand evolution and continuing to update and reinvent both our own brand and the brand’s of our clients. I’m sure I drive my team bonkers – I don’t think there has been a single week in the history of Smack Bang when we haven’t reviewed, edited or tweaked our website or an aspect of our brand.

Let me be clear though, when I talk about brand evolution, I don’t mean a rebrand. Heck – if I were doing that every week I’d have a gold star membership to my local psych ward. What I mean is a gradual, organic, you’d-barely-notice-it update of each aspect of your brand. Continually. So that over time, you ensure that you remain relevant and in touch with your community.

Re-branding can be an invaluable exercise and it can certainly do wonders for your bottom line. But it’s not something I recommend doing often. Instead, allow your brand to change slowly and gradually in relationship to its context. Let it evolve with relevance to your values, your products and your people. Make small changes at a time and evaluate them as you do. Maybe you’ve always used cursive type for your headings, but you’re starting to realise that that font is so 2017 or a little too Disney-like for your customers. It’s not going to spark an unimaginable natural disaster if you slowly introduce a new heading font. And, if a few months down the track, you feel like the new replacement font doesn’t work, you can easily and efficiently switch it back, without creating a brand disaster. That’s the beauty of doing things slowly and gradually, with caution and care. You preserve the brand equity you’ve created, whilst tweaking pieces of your identity to stay relevant and connected to your audience.

But before you get all tweenager-at-a-Tay-Tay-concert, jacked up on red frogs and a cocktail of enthusiasm, don’t go transforming every aspect of your brand so that it ends up looking like a patchwork quilt created at Burning Man. Steady on, Tiger. I said make small changes at a time. You don’t want to tempt yourself into a completely new look without a solid strategy and method to your madness.

Image credit: Souffle

Why I’m having untouchable Thursdays.

My first job was at McDonalds. No kidding.

When we weren’t being harassed by impatient soccer mums demanding Astro boy with their Happy Meals, or underagers jacked up on soft serve, my yellow-clad colleagues and I used to play this game where we’d throw the little sauce containers as hard as we could against the floor and whoever’s sauce splattered against the ceiling, won. It was, at the time, one of the biggest challenges of my life. (I was only 13, don’t judge me).

Fast forward to today and some days I would kill to be back at Maccas. I now juggle 4 businesses, house renovations, a Kelpie and shortly, a newborn.

I hate the notion of wearing the ‘busy badge’ with every cell of my body. But in all honestly, I find it super hard to buy into this ‘my life is full’ not ‘busy’ methodology. When you wake up each morning and study your calendar to try and find the 5 minute breaks in your day when you might be able to fuel your body and take care of its bodily functions, it’s hard to avoid using the word ‘busy’.

The other day, a 7 year old asked me the million dollar question – if I could have any superpower in the world, which would I choose. I told him, I would freeze time. If I could just have an extra hour in my day, or day in my week, or month in my year I would be so much more chill. But until I stumble across a Genie in a bottle, I’ll have to put up with the same 365 days as everyone else.

I know all business owners out there can relate to this. I often joke that the only place busier than an entrepreneur’s calendar is Disneyland in the peak of school holidays. And to be honest, running a business often feels just as unhinged, bewildering and energy draining, only you walk away with far less fairy floss and Vitamin D in your system. More on the ‘busy’ dilemma here.

Whilst I haven’t yet found the Genie to grant our wishes, (don’t worry, I’m still looking), I have, however, found the next best solution. It’s called an Untouchable Day.

Since I started my business I’ve always had one day a week that I spend on the business, not in it. Sounds great in theory right?! But implementing this is one of the hardest things to do. I’ve had to be really disciplined about sticking to it. Even though I’ve been doing it for seven years now, still every week, every force under the sun will try to prevent me from taking a day out of the studio, a day away from the mundane tasks, away from my inbox (God forbid!!) and a day to sit in solitude and get some proper, deeper work done.

But the thing that keeps me persisting with it is that these untouchable days are almost as addictive as crack. No joke. They are so valuable to the trajectory of my business and my sanity that I crave them. And if I don’t get my hit one week? I feel it – like a junkie coming down, I feel anxious, stressed and like I haven’t achieved anything in my week.

My marketing manager, Hannah, recently shared this post with me which inspired me to tell you about my version of Untouchable Days and why I love them so much.

So, what do I actually do on an untouchable day?

It depends. I either label the day as an ideation day or execution day, depending on what the business needs from me that week.

An ideation day is where I use the day to generate new ideas and workshop existing problems or facets of the business that need my attention. In the first half of an ideation day, my existence usually evaporates into a piece of butcher’s paper, scrawling my thoughts and ideas so vigorously I’m sure I’ve got early onset RSI, completely losing track of time and brain dumping anything and everything that comes to mind with the filter of a 3 year old child.

The second half of the day is a process of coming down from caffeine, and slowly but surely piecing together the remnants of a few good ideas and transforming them into a solid strategy and action plan.

An execution day on the other hand, is a day spent ploughing through some actual work. It’s all about implementing new strategies, systems or action plans. I write down no more than two or three things I want to get done for the day. These tasks are solid tasks that require my full strength focus and a full strength coffee. They might include writing a bunch of blog posts, auditing our processes, reviewing one of our products or implementing an action plan for a new strategy I’m working on.

The day is most certainly spent in a top knot and trackies, with endless snacks, and some sweet tunes cranking (lately it’s been a close battle between this and this). It’s about finding the perfect balance of upbeat and calm, so that I can focus in and switch my brain from frantic to focused.

I have a couple of rules for my untouchable days to ensure I get the most out of them and don’t just spend the day going back and forth to the fridge (FYI – the contents of your fridge don’t actually change no matter how many five minutes intervals you visit it. I know, so disappointing.)

Cardinal rule #1 of an untouchable day is to block out the time on your calendar.

Essentially treat it with the same level of seriousness as your fiancé’s wedding (you should probably attend that one) or emergency surgery (okay, perhaps not that level of severity, but almost).

I know just as well as anyone, that if I postponed my untouchable day to when I finish all my urgent, pressing, semi-on-fire tasks I might see the light of the untouchable day in ummm, approximately ten years’ time.

Look, in ten years’ time I plan on living in Topanga Canyon for half the year and drinking chilled red wine from a Swarovski goblet. Not having some kind of doctrinal ‘working sabbatical’ in my office each week – c’mon!

Long story short? I’m not getting to the bottom of my inbox or daily to-do’s anytime soon, so I may as well pretend like they don’t exist for one day a week and do the stuff that really matters.

Cardinal rule #2 is to block out distractions.

I am obsessed with Gmail’s Inbox Pause feature and swear by it for when I want to get some real work done. It essentially just pauses any new emails coming into your inbox for a nominated period of time. Because let’s face it, anyone who’s tried to avoid the allure of a busy inbox for an entire day knows it’s harder than breaking up with your high school sweetheart. There’s so much procrastination, temptation and ease to just slip back into it and not face the music.

I also pretend that it’s the good ol’ days and social media doesn’t yet exist (oh, what a time to be alive!). An Untouchable Day means avoiding falling down any proverbial rabbit holes such as Instagram, Pinterest, The Fat Jewish, Comments by Celebs or answering the door to people who aren’t couriers bringing me gifts. This extends to and includes friends, family and girl scouts. You are not welcome. Except for my partner / roommate / gardener, Byron, and even sometimes then, I’ll only allow him into our home at my own discretion.

So, what are the benefits of an untouchable day?

Well, that’s a 40km long blog post, so I’ll leave the full deets for another day. But in short, when I’m not sucked into the vortex of the daily to-do’s I can access my brain with a killer combination of speed, intelligence, focus and grounding. As soon as I open that little red demon we refer to as Gmail? All these parts of my brain are zapped. Nadda. Zilch. Empty. It’s like a phone with a dead battery – you know it works and functions as it should, but you just can’t access it.

No matter what kind of work you do — writing, designing, coaching, project management, personal styling or potato peeling — having an Untouchable Day will bring back the genius in you.

Because after all, time is the most valuable asset you own, you have to use it wisely.

Image credit: Glossier