One year on - Is the grass greener?

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Matt Hudson, Total Motion Events, 19th December 2016

If you are only the average of the friends you spend most of your time with then it was at some point inevitable that my career would lead me down the path of self-employment. My focus consciously turned in this direction over 2014 and through 2015 when I began to investigate exactly what that new career could look like. I invested a lot of time, energy and money in searching for that elusive idea that would provide me with the nucleus of a business plan. Like so many people who feel the need to break free and escape the corporate shackles, I initially didn’t know what I was attempting to escape to, only what I was running from. With the help of an amazing career change ‘guru’, Rikke Hansen, I did an awful lot of emotional soul searching and explored lots of business options, from the sublime to the ridiculous, some were viable, but would bring little gratification, some tremendous fun, but with questionable financial upside. After some intensive searching I finally landed on the world of events, with a particular focus on sports, and Total Motion Events was conceived. It seems so obvious in hindsight, but took a lot of work to get even this far.

Was it really a case of better the devil you know, or indeed was the grass truly going to be greener on the other side? Having invested in the process to this point would I have what it takes to take the next step. Not just the next step, but the step. When it actually comes down to it there are two main areas that make leaving a secure job a really scary prospect. Firstly there is the fear of failure. What if I get myself into something where I am completely out of my depth, what if I fall flat on my face – Will everyone laugh behind my back for not being able to take on the real world where others have found fulfilment. This is of course emotional and subjective, but the number 2 blocker that prevents people leaving their job to go it alone is of course the very real issue of money. I, like most, still have a mortgage to service, the same monthly bills, and a family for which I have a duty to provide for. Could I do this??

Having spoken to numerous friends (and probably boring them in the process with my perceived hyperbole) I felt, in part, obligated to put my plan in to action, put my money where my mouth was so to speak. So, D(eparture)–Day was set for the first day back in 2016 post the Christmas break. Probably when a lot of people spontaneously feel like packing it all in and moving somewhere sunny forever, rather than face another January. What I was doing was anything but spontaneous, I had prepared for this after a long period of planning and contemplation, I was good to go, I was ready….fingers crossed, here goes…erm, everything!

So, after one year on the other side, I can truly say that it has been one of the most exciting, yet terrifying years of my working life. Corporate jobs give you that monthly salary comfort blanket, not to mention the pension contributions and other perks. Regardless of whether you have been hitting the ball out of the park, or turning up and going through the motions, you still get paid each month (as long as the latter doesn’t outweigh the former too frequently). When the 25th of the month comes around and your bank balance doesn’t get larger that’s when reality really bites!

All this said the rollercoaster of 2016 has given me many highs, as well as numerous lows, my emotional state has never been quite so volatile, life has never been less boring. Every single day is different. I was initially concerned that I would run out of ideas, lack motivation at times and spend time procrastinating. What I have actually found is that my work has been defined by the promises that I have made to clients. In some ways it is a myth that I am self-employed, I am employed by those organisations that place their faith in me to (over)deliver the experience that they envisage.

In 2016 Total Motion has created events including aquathlons, static triathlons, running/scooting events and stair climbs. Stair climbs were always pretty niche, but now Total Motion has become the go-to organiser for these events, and I am so happy that The Broadgate Tower consider us to be their preferred supplier of tower running services to charities at the venue. In addition we have organised and delivered ‘Grate48’, the very first stair climb at The Leadenhall Building, ‘The Cheesegrater’, on behalf of The Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity. This event alone saw funds raised of around £90k, contributing significantly to the £120k that Total Motion organised events have raised for 10 charities in 2016. I am hugely proud of this achievement this year, and thank all of those friends and family, charities, schools, corporates and, of course, participants who have taken time out to support me and Total Motion Events.

Each event has brought unique challenges and obstacles, each month a new reason to look back at my previous career and really ask myself, ‘what the hell are you doing?’  I used to think that I had it worked out, what I now realise is that I was a long way from having it worked out, but I am working it out, it’s a journey, a journey of self-awareness. I now am acutely aware of my strengths, and certainly my weaknesses…it’s all part of the new world, the new paradigm.

Do I long to return to a salaried job? Perhaps, but only fleetingly. For every set back I have faith that hard work and determination, i.e. ‘the grind’, will pay dividends. It may not make me rich in 2016, 2017, 2018 but that’s short sighted. Yes, I admit, I want to make money, but really that’s not where the overriding motivation is. I am a believer in treating people right, doing the job right, putting in the requisite work. Having integrity. Integrity won’t pay the bills today or tomorrow, but over the longer term I believe it is an attractive quality, not just on a personal level, but very definitely on a professional level. It may take a long time for this to filter through to potential customers, that’s fine, but I bet the news that you lack integrity travels pretty bloody quickly. You can’t measure the ROI of doing the right thing, but you can be sure there is an ‘R’ on that ‘I’.

So as I look back at the highs and lows of the past 12 months, I ask myself if the grass is greener. Well, the truth is that the jury is still out. I am working harder, earning less money, and have more stresses than at any point over the last decade and I couldn’t be happier. I proved to myself that I had the courage to try something new. In my eyes it would have been the bigger mistake living with the regret, never knowing whether I could make it work. I made the move, made the jump, made my new bed…and I am lying in it.

It is good to look back and dissect 2016, and that is time well spent in my opinion.  It is important to understand the journey, the back-story, the positives and negatives, but really what is important now is what happens from here.  In the first year of business no one is expecting you to shoot the lights out, you have a grace period.  When asked about the health of Total Motion Events, you are being asked about how it feels.  Year 1 is about building relationships, learning the ropes, laying foundations.  Moving in to the second full year it now gets a lot more serious, questions now move towards numbers - staff, turnover, margins and most certainly P&L.  Part of this equation for me is the money raised for good causes along the way, but there is no doubt that Total Motion Events is only able to help good causes if it, itself is profitable and this is where the focus is in the new year.  It’s all about the numbers and the linkage between them.  I’ve proved I can leave my job and start a business, now it’s time to prove that Total Motion can be a success.  Roll on 2017.