As my travels came to an end I reflected on what being away taught me – about myself and about Illumin8. Turns out we're on the right track.
Andrew here. So, here is the last reflection from my six weeks away, through UK and Europe with my family. When I went, I uninstalled every piece of social media off my phone. Facebook, Twitter, everything. All work applications gone, emails gone. I literally would have to log on via the internet if I wanted to try and access these things on my phone. I told all my clients that I was not available, I would not respond to emails for six weeks and passed every responsibility I had onto my team here locally, and I just cut off.
I said, "This six weeks is going to be about enjoying this trip, and enjoying this trip for myself, and my family, and not for other people." The social media thing was that I wanted to make sure that I lived this experience for us, and not trying to show off to other people, or not trying to prove to other people how good of a time we're having. I wanted it to be our trip. Happy to share what we did afterwards, but I wanted that moment to be ours. I wanted to be able to reflect.
I didn't want to have to jump, and do a quick video recording to show how cool it is, at what I'm doing. As much as I love social media, and love connecting, I love sharing experiences, and to some extent sometimes inspiring others, because of what we're able to do, this was a real private, personal thing that I wanted to do. I found it really good. It was really easy to some extent to check out of work. What I found was really hard was to check back into the family stuff.
In your day-to-day, when you run a business, for a large chunk of your day you're working. And then you come home, you have four to six hours maybe of family time, depending on what time you get home, what time you get up in the morning. What I found when I was away was I was filing the work time, now that I was no longer working, with like, "All right, we're out for the day. We need to go and do this, and this, and this, and this, and this. And here's all these things that Andrew wants to experience."
When I was home I'd chuck on and watch an NBA basketball game. Utah Jazz fan, I'd watch it. Or maybe I'd read a blog that was really interesting about something. I bought a couple of books. I'm not a big reader, but had a little peak into that. A lot of families have filled up this time that used to be work with something else. I had to slowly learn to disengage myself from that and say, "No, the whole purpose of this trip, of disengaging from social and from work, is that you're engaging with the people you're traveling with, your family, the people that you care about the most."
Eventually we got there. I reckon it probably took me about four odd weeks. It was about the time we were in Norwich, before we headed off to Edinburgh for the first time, and once we had a car and were driving through Scotland, and maybe this is an Australian thing, we jump in the car and we drive 20-30 minutes to see your mate around the corner. Whereas everywhere else we'd been in the UK and Europe was just hopping on trains and walking.
Being able to get in a car and drive somewhere and then hop out and experience, I felt like it just connected us again as a family. The kids really enjoyed it and my wife really enjoyed it. Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries I've ever been to. I really learnt a lot there, the whole engaging thing.
The second thing that I learned about on this trip - you've just got to believe in yourself.
My whole goal with this business of Illumin8 is to empower each and every individual to be able to live and represent who Illumin8 is so it doesn't rely on one person to do something. Particularly, that I'm not required to come in with a superhero cape and save the day. I'm not saying that that's what happens, but I want to make sure we have good people who understand what we're about, who know how to go and achieve things, and who are free to be creative and free to pursue objectives for clients and get results for them that, if they had to wait for the boss to sign off on every little thing, it just wouldn't happen.
Whilst away the team hit billing targets, picked up new clients and had more cash in the bank when I got back than when I left – all goals reached! But more importantly I had big goals set for the team. I said, "I'll be happy if you love on our clients, you support one another, get shit done, get work out the door, and we have fun and live the brand." They were all massively ticked. I was absolutely stoked.
The first goals that I had, hitting our budget, getting proper work out the door, picking up new clients, and more cash in the bank – we pretty much ticked all of those as well. What it taught me is that if you've got good people around you and you trust in them, they will rise to the occasion when given the opportunity. So you need to make sure you're giving them the opportunity more frequently, otherwise they'll stay at the level you expect them to be or they'll find something else to do, because you're not freeing them up.
It was weird coming back in six weeks later and seeing how the environment had changed - and how people were really connected and proud of what they'd done. It also made me realize that maybe what we've been building here is working! It doesn't necessarily need to be every day, doesn't need the superhero and the cape. What it needs is good people who are passionate, who are connected to a vision, who are connected to a brand, who are working and supporting each other, and who know what we should be doing as a business. That's the biggest lesson I learned.
I found that people around the world knew who we were. I met five or six different individuals in the last little bit, some of them who I'd known for a while, some of them I'd never met before, some of them I hadn't seen for 5-10 years. I reckon within the first two to three minutes of bumping into or meeting these people, they were like, "Illumin8, your business is just amazing. I love what you do, you're so different. How do you get away with what you do? I wish we had something like that here!"
I'm sure there are people like us out there – it would be obscene to suggest that there aren't, but what that confirmed for me is that if you believe in yourself, have a vision and are committed to it, people will take notice! A couple of accountants who run their own business said that we've helped to inspire them and they've learned things from us – how great is that! A lot of the time I haven't even met them before, but they've followed what we do, and they see how we interact, how we talk and how we're passionate. They learnt and they grew from these kind of things. That was just phenomenal! If I'm honest, I often think I'm not good enough in what I do – a bit of impostor syndrome.
I'm the little guy out in the Mornington Peninsula with a small crew, doing something different. Sometimes you feel like you're not good enough, like you're not achieving what you should be achieving, and you have this long term goal and long term future that you're aiming for, and in the short term you're not achieving it – because it's such a long term goal!
These individuals, in these random moments, reminded me that we're doing the right thing, that what we believe in and what we're about is good, it's good fruit. We're helping people, we're making a difference. We're having fun along the way, and a byproduct of that is people on (literally) the other side of the world are engaging, growing and appreciating what we're doing as well.
If you're doing something out there and you believe in it, and it's producing good fruit, and it's making a difference, make sure you're not so future focused that you're not appreciating what you're in at the moment. Make sure you are connecting with others out there to understand if you're doing the right thing, get people's perspectives and learn and grow from that as well. Yeah, that's the big lesson. Thank you very much guys.