Sharing Experience, Clare Friel
It’s important to help yourself, too
While I always advocate kindness in business, it comes in many forms and, on occasion, to my detriment as a business owner. Sometimes someone wants a freebie favour. Or you wish to buy someone a coffee because they’re struggling – even though you’re under pressure yourself.
For brands, altruism was crucial during the pandemic. No one wanted to be sold to, and brash sales messages were replaced with a more empathic and kind tone of voice.
When I started Friel, I went to the opening of an envelope to network and find potential work opportunities. As a newbie to many of these circles, I’d often get asked to do things for free with people promising me it would “be good for my reputation”. I quickly learnt this wasn’t always the case and the favour was not always returned.
Learning life’s lessons
I had my fingers burnt in the early days by being eager to please and impress. Looking back, I can now chuckle and put it down as one of life’s lessons. Was I naive to help others, even when there was no reward? Yes, sometimes I was. But some of those early favours have paid dividends since as my business has grown.
Pre-Friel, I was on the cusp of physical and mental burnout. My life had become all work, work, work – while still being a single parent. On a whim, I booked myself onto a retreat. A week of exercise and healthy eating; the promise of escaping the craziness and demands from everything in my life. This was the first time in years that I had put myself before others – and the benefits were mind-blowing.
During this retreat, I had nothing to focus on apart from myself. No one wanted anything from me. No emails, no phone. For seven days, life hit the pause button to give me time to think and declutter my brain and realign my vision and goals for what I wanted in my work and personal life. I even cut out sugar, caffeine and alcohol for a year. For me, the retreat was a game-changer.
In general, business owners tend to put others first, whether that’s employees or clients. I’m naturally a people pleaser, and the culture at Friel is nothing but supportive. If someone has a tough day, the team rallies around, even if it means working late or taking more on. It works both ways, with my team nagging me to have time off in December. I have been battling long covid since September and then caught covid for the second time in December. Not every business owner is fortunate to be able to step away, but the team recognised I needed to look after myself before the business.
It can be easy to help others, but from experience, I know it’s super important to help myself, too.