Entrepreneurs

Six invaluable lessons: What 20 years in aged care taught me about being an entrepreneur

Natasha Chadwick /

entrepreneur

NewDirection Care founder and chief executive officer, Natasha Chadwick. Source: Supplied.

Being an entrepreneur is an experience like no other. Simply put, it is not easy and not for the fainthearted. Often, when I hear people talk about starting a business, one of the reasons they give is it will free them from the drudgery of the nine-to-five life. I wonder if they know what they’re letting themselves in for!

Sure, when you are your own boss, you don’t have to work from 9am until 5pm if you don’t want to, but that’s only because you’re working every waking hour you have. Having said that, being a business leader is wonderfully rewarding both personally and financially.

Here are some of the valuable lessons I’ve learnt during my entrepreneurial journey.

Don’t make it all about the money

Nobody starts a business because they just want to get by financially.

Of course, as an entrepreneur, I want to make money, but attaining personal wealth is not what gets me out of bed. Instead, it’s the burning desire to bring about much-needed reform in the way we look after the elderly and those living with dementia. I just couldn’t sit on the sidelines. I don’t want to sound too grand, but I consider it a calling. What this means is that whenever setbacks have occurred, I’ve never lost heart and never once thought of throwing in the towel. It’s my desire to offer something better than traditional aged care that pushes me to work hard, knowing that what we are doing is making a huge difference to people’s lives. I don’t think I could have achieved half of what I have if my heart and soul weren’t in it 100%.

Believe in yourself

I have been an innovator throughout my career and have always sought out opportunities to improve the aged-care industry. What drives me forward is my belief in myself, my vision and my ability to make things happen. The thing about self-belief is that it puts you in the right frame of mind to get things done.

Saying ‘I can do it!’ to yourself is always followed by the question ‘how will I do it?’ And that is what gets the creative juices flowing to help you move from ideas to action.

Read lots and read often

I don’t know it all, and I’ll never know it all. No one does!

But I am never going to stop learning. When I started out, I read many books about running a business and getting into an entrepreneurial mindset. They taught me a lot of things I wouldn’t have otherwise learnt. I continue to tap into the knowledge of others who’ve been there, seen it and done it.

Many of the authors learnt their lessons through trial and error and have lots of useful information to impart. There is so much great information out there. Take the bits that are relevant to you and always be open to learning.

Don’t be afraid to fail

I don’t like it when things don’t work out. When I’ve put a lot of effort into getting an idea off the ground and it doesn’t work as well as expected, it’s hard. I’m not going to pretend otherwise.

But what I don’t do is put my head down or let it stop me from taking further risks and trying something else. I don’t know of a single successful entrepreneur who hasn’t met with failure or disappointment. It is part and parcel of being one.

If you cannot respond well to failure, then setting up and running your own business is not the career for you. When you experience failure just remember that it isn’t permanent. Pick yourself up, discover what went wrong, learn from any mistakes and continue to forge ahead.  

Being an entrepreneur is lonely

Nobody knows exactly how hard you are working, and you will never receive the acknowledgment or pats on the back you feel you truly deserve. You are choosing to go your own way, and no one will be able to tell you which the right or wrong direction is.  And while everyone will share in your successes, few will share in your failures. It is lonely at the top.

However, there are ways to deal with it. They include collaborating with others, finding a virtual or real-world entrepreneurial community and working with a mentor.

Know that the best time is always now

Daydreams are wonderful but if they stay in your head they’re nothing more than wasted opportunities. I reckon there must be millions of brilliant business ideas that will never see the light of day because that is where they will stay. So many people talk about what they’re going to do but never actually get around to doing it. That’s not me. Whenever I have an idea I act immediately even if that’s just putting it onto paper and noting a few pointers about how it could happen. I always do something. Serious follow-up is not far behind.  

One of the biggest factors that separate those who succeed in business from those who don’t is the action they take.  It doesn’t matter if your ideas haven’t been fully formed or you can’t quite envision what the end goal will look like, you must do something.  

The lessons keep coming

In this article, I have shared six of the lessons I have picked up along the way, but there are many more and some I am still learning.  And that is one of the most fantastic things about striking out on your own. You never stop growing, learning and reaching to achieve more.

NOW READ: Ten lessons from a 28-year-old founder who started three businesses and sold two, all while maintaining a full-time job

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Natasha Chadwick

Natasha is the founder and chief executive officer of NewDirection Care, an innovative privately-owned organisation which has created the world’s first inclusive microtown aged-care community.

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