So we’ve now been in New York for a week. It’s pretty surreal and extremely exciting. We’ll be here until Christmas – helping Mikey grow the US escapee community and working our behinds off on the website.
I thought I would write a quick post reflecting on what it feels like to have started a business from our kitchen table that now sees us living in one of the most exciting cities in the world to launch a new arm of our business.
The first thing that struck Dom and me as we waited for a cab at Newark airport (having braved the scary immigration officials) was that when we started Esc we would never have believed someone if they told us that we would be in a position to run Esc from New York within 2 years.
You can do a lot in a year
I think that we often overestimate what we can achieve in any given week but underestimate what we can achieve in a year. When you’re starting your own business the progress that you make on a daily basis often feels painfully slow, and it’s all too easy for the random and minute tasks to absorb your entire focus (and you can easily lose sight of the bigger picture).
Two years ago today Dom was still working as a management consultant, furiously saving as much of his salary for his impending escape. I was just finishing working the wine harvest in Portugal. Escape the City was nothing more than a free blog with a few posts on it. The newsletter was about to be born.
Even one year ago we were in a very different position to where we are now. We had only 16,000 members (compared to almost 45,000 today) and we were still working from our kitchen table (as opposed to the swanky offices we just vacated in Kings Cross). We were still getting to grips with our business model (selling exciting job listings) and wondering whether Esc had legs for the long-term.
Bravery & Rewards
The last thing Dom, Mikey and I ever want to do is sound smug (and the choices that we’ve made to escape the city mean that often it is our friends and ex-colleagues who are better off than us in terms of security and financial stability) but the fact that we have come to work in New York under our own steam is the direct result of a naïve, brave, idealistic and hopeful decision that we made on a park bench in Wimbledon over two years ago.
There are all sorts of cheesy, inspirational quotes about risk vs reward and a ‘just do it’ mentality that often over-simplify complex decision-making processes. However it is true that you’ve got to be in it to win it and the simple fact is that if we hadn’t made the mad/brave/exciting decision to pursue an unrealistic dream – living a life on our own terms whilst building something that helps other people do the same – we wouldn’t be in New York today.
A business is where you design your perfect world.
Like Mikey, I’ve recently really enjoyed reading ‘Anything You Want’ by Derek Sivers and was struck by this line…
When you make a company, you make a utopia. It’s where you design your perfect world.
It’s true. You get to play and work on your own terms. No more booking in a limited amount of holidays with HR far in advance. No more being held to arbitrary deadlines by senior managers. No more seeing your evenings disappear waiting for a busy partner to ask you to make formatting changes to a PowerPoint deck.
You get to work on what you want, when you want. You get to say no to some projects and yes to others. You can work till 3 am on a Monday night if you want. But equally you can take a random Wednesday morning off with no guilt. You live life on your own terms.
Make no mistakes – it’s tough.
Don’t get me wrong – while this is the dream, the reality of getting to this point is tough. And we’ve got a long way to go before we have properly finished building our business (and the financial stability that hopefully comes with it).
For all our enthusiastic start-up evangelism… building a business is hard. Really hard. Harder than we realised!
The single biggest challenge with starting your own company is that you accept ultimate responsibility for your income – rather than living under the addictive duvet of a monthly salary.
But all the financial anxiety and hard graft of the past two years is worth it for the prize of living life on our own terms. And moving to New York really feels like a reward at this stage in the journey.
All 3 Escape the City team members are now based in New York.
Going to check out the #occupywallstreet movement this week – blog post to follow.