In 2009 I left a comfortable job in recruitment to start my own business with my brother. The company involved generating leads for an online training programme which would eventually develop into a successful, multi award-winning business providing online training for over 100,000 students, called New Skills Academy.
Taking those initial steps into the world of business – the risks and decision-making that comes with being your own boss – is always a difficult task. But, for my brother Dan, there was added trepidation, as he was aware of the struggles that I’d faced with an addiction to gambling that had spiralled out of control. Looking back, I now realise how much faith Dan put in me during those early years. And with his support, along with the assistance of Gamblers Anonymous, I was determined not to let him down.
The constant pressure of taking risks in a new business venture can wear down the hardiest character, but I thrived on it. I’d replaced the addiction of gambling with the addiction of driving the business forward, and I could see the potential in the training sector, in particular online learning, through my previous experience within the recruitment industry.
In the early days there was no interest from customers and no money coming in. These were the hardest times for Dan and I – a lack of sleep and the constant thought in the back of our minds, have we done the right thing? We were both bursting with ideas, but didn’t necessarily have the finances in place to be able to move ahead with them. We learned through trial and error, relentlessly chasing people for decisions and money, desperate not to fail. The advice to my younger-self now would be to calm down, try not to make those hasty decisions and save yourself from those embarrassing moments when a little bit of patience would work wonders for the business.
Finally, the breakthrough came and we moved into developing our own online learning courses. From that point on, it felt that we were moving in the right direction, the growth of the business was steady, and we were able to distinguish ourselves from the competition with our dedicated long term goals and vision for the company.
We realised that many people dream of pursuing a degree or certification but never find the time to follow it through due to work commitments, family pressures, etc. By developing our courses across online and mobile devices, students can literally ‘learn on the go’ and study anywhere in the world.
Both Dan and I have learned a lot on this journey together. We’ve come to appreciate each others’ qualities as businessmen; we’ve grown as individuals, calmed down and learnt to not rush into making hasty decisions, but rather to think things through. Seeing something that you’ve created from a seed of an idea in your head is truly one off the most rewarding things you can ever do.
Of course, we disagree; what family doesn’t?! But our skill sets complement each other, and we’ve learnt that sometimes it’s best to agree to disagree – and move on. Ultimately, though, we couldn’t run the business unless we shared the same goals and focus.
For us, to do it as a family, has been an incredible achievement. I can’t thank my brother enough for his faith in me during my road to recovery from my addiction. Last year we picked up three major awards, including the Family Business category in the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards. Now we’re looking forward to what 2018 will hold for us!
New Skills Academy is offering Family Friendly Working readers the opportunity to claim a 60% discount on any of its online courses. Over 200 courses are available, from dog-walking to vlogging; facilities management to retail banking; digital marketing to teaching.
Visit www.newskillsacademy.co.uk to find out more and use the code FFW60.