By my late 20s, I had travelled the world for work. My CV highlights my experience across 6 countries and 15 cities. I have learnt so much from the experiences and the people I’ve met along the way. By 28 I had already lived a “big” life.
It wasn’t until I was working on a $5b bid for a city changing infrastructure project that I first realised that I could see somebody representing every stage of my life from my late 20s to my mid 60s on our project team. It was a terrifying realisation, seeing my path laid out before me because I didn’t want any of their lifestyles. They were all wonderful people, many that I’m still in contact with but I wanted different things in my life. That was when I realised what the nagging feeling I’d had for at least the past 6+ years was – I had been climbing the wrong ladder and not living to my values. Which led me to ask, what did I value?
Not long after finishing the bid, I found myself living a “high flyer” lifestyle. I was told by people that heard about my lifestyle – constantly being flown all over the country and staying in nice hotels with most of my expenses covered – how amazing my life was. But, I had never been more miserable because I had nothing that was important to me:
- I rarely saw my friends and if I did I was too exhausted and worn down to be any fun.
- I didn’t have any hobbies or activities that “filled me up” or I could look for.
- I couldn’t have a life or build a life of my own as I was rarely in one place.
- I had very little autonomy over my life and often had to fight for my public holidays and to take annual leave when I wanted to.
To me, it didn’t make sense, to spend 50+ hours a week doing things I was good at but didn’t enjoy. Trading my life for a pay check. It didn’t make sense to sacrifice my life for the “promise” of great lifestyle when I retired all while watching the retirement age creep up. It didn’t make sense to never be able to see my friends and family because I was working 9 – 12 hours per day and a shell of a person in the evenings and weekends.
It wasn’t until I got everything I wanted, living the life of a corporate high flyer, that I realised I wanted the wrong things.
To make matters worse, I saw the only way out as building an investment nest egg I could live off (FIRE). As an employee with a fixed income ceiling, the only way to increase your monthly investment contributions is to minimise your monthly cost by gutting your lifestyle. In the short term this is a great way to save, in the long term, this is a great way to make yourself miserable.
Working and living the way I was, I just couldn’t keep doing this. I’d had a pretty serious burn out almost every year. To make matters worse, everywhere I had gone I had seen glimpses of another way. Another life. People living on their terms. Initially, I resented these people. I shut myself off from this possibility because “that was for others” and “could never work for me”. Once I broke out of my mindset that “I’m just an engineer/project manager/engineering manager” I started to figured that I am not defined by a job title and there was more out there than just a job for me. There is nothing wrong with being an employee and they are so needed! I’m saying that this path was not the right path for me.
Something inside of me had always wanted to create my own business, a feeling I had ignored for a long time. My mum, dad and brother have all started and run their own companies so you might say it’s in our blood.
So in August 2019, I walked away from a significant promotion and career making role with no idea what next or how. I just knew I couldn’t keep doing the same thing.
After I quit the corporate world I had time and space for reflection. I moved back to the Sunshine Coast and I could get back into hobbies that filled me up. In the stillness I got clarity. After much discussion, I decided to team up with my younger brother, Hayden, to turn his solopreneur videography operation into a production company. He would be the creative director and I would be his business partner focusing on operational excellence.
Now I became truly aware of the life of the entrepreneur. Working longer, working harder and earning less than the job they left. Yet I’d met other small business owners that ran their business instead of being run (into the ground) by their business. So I knew there was another way to do business, I just needed to unlock it.
Around the same time, I had joined a business group led by one of the few certified disciples of Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Dad). Their training was almost exclusively around mindset shifts. Through this group I learnt how this multi-millionaire had created multiple lifestyle businesses, taking 3 months off every year and only working 4 hours a day, from nothing. This was a period with lots of paradigm shifts and having to learn how to re-think about life and business.
Early in setting up our production company, I was introduced to the Emyth by Michael Gerber. All of a sudden the pieces fell into place. I realised that I’d experienced, taught myself and been implementing all of these fundamental concepts throughout my career. Concepts like:
- Studying and understanding what creates high performance teams and cultures.
- Importance of vision, mission and the right values.
- Creating continual improvement systems to drive predictable and consistent outcomes.
- Leadership and management.
I could combine this thinking with the paradigm shifting ideas I’d learnt in the business group with the systems thinking that came naturally to me and apply this to the production company. I was also studying from anyone that I could learn from, reading every book I could as well as signing up for courses. During this period, I heavily invested my time and money to learn, test and improve.
In 2021 I decided that it was time to step away from the production company because this was something that I had to do. The timing worked well as my brother wanted to take the production company in a different direction to what we founded. Looking back and connecting the dots it became clear that everything in my life had lead to this point. So I founded my second company with a vision of helping other small businesses to transform their small businesses into a lifestyle business.
By this stage, Dad’s company, First Principles Consulting, had settled into it’s very specific niche, business and operational improvement for the largest precious metal (primarily gold) mining companies in the world. I only wanted to work with small businesses – individuals that had a burning desire and reason to change and positively influence those around them. Given Dad and I have the same way of thinking about problems (apples don’t always fall far from the tree) and used the same frameworks (I had picked a lot up through osmosis over the years hearing about his projects as well as being a sounding board) so it made sense to join forces and pool our knowledge and resources. This is how First Principles Consulting Small Medium Enterprise (FPC SME) came into existence.