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  • Writer's pictureJessica Davey

A personal and honest reflection of running your own start-up during a global pandemic.

I was worried about whether to write this or not.

I was worried because it is a brutally honest and personal reflection on the past 6 months for me.

I was worried because I thought people may judge.

I was worried because I thought businesses may not want to work with me.

And then I remembered: I set up Belong for a reason.

I set up Belong because of my passion for helping people. Two of my strongest values, which underpin everything I do and is reflective (I hope!!) in the service I provide to both clients and candidates, are:

Be honest and be personal.

I posted something similar on my personal social media account a couple of weeks ago and I was inundated with messages of not just support, but of people saying that they completely resonated with what I shared. They had experienced something similar themselves; they asked if I was free to chat confidentially and they opened up to me. And so if this post reaches and helps even just one person, then it is a post worth sharing.

And if a business does not want to work with me because of my honest and personal approach, then their values and culture does not resonate with my own and I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable placing a candidate in their organisation. One of the benefits of running your own business is that you can chose who you work with. I firmly believe in only ever placing candidates in companies whose culture, values and mission I believe in.

This virus has undoubtedly left a mark on all of our lives.

The past six months have been incredibly challenging for us all. Coronavirus has unquestionably affected every soul on the planet. Whether you personally, your family, friends, colleagues or neighbours have been impacted – and whether that be physically, financially or emotionally – this virus has undoubtedly left a mark on all of our lives.

I set up Belong in November 2019. I left my brilliant job in the city, which I absolutely loved, leaving behind a great team, corporate career and ultimately a huge amount of security from having a basic salary. I took a huge risk – with a mortgage to pay, car to run, food to put on the table – and threw all of my hopes, dreams and every bit of passion into building my business.

After only a few months of trading – and what seemed like overnight – coronavirus hit us. It was as if someone had switched the lights off. Suddenly my world was turned upside down. Funnily enough, I didn’t write ‘global pandemic’ into the business plan!

Everything was out of my control.

As I am sure many other professionals experienced – whether you are the Founder of a start-up, a salesperson, a hairdresser or a plumber – it felt like my dreams were slipping through my fingers and everything was out of my control. However hard I tried, the answer was ‘no’. No one was hiring; no one was buying; no one was selling.

To make matters even worse, I was in the small minority that the government’s schemes did not help. I had started my business too recently to qualify for support and as I am a Company Director, I could not furlough myself.

I have never been so scared of what the future holds in my life.

Some days, after receiving ‘no’ after ‘no’ after ‘no’, I would just close my laptop and feel helpless, not knowing how to make this go away. Some days I would just stare into space, filled with dread about how I am going to keep a roof over my head when the market had completely crashed. Some days it was a struggle to get out of bed and start the day, because I felt like I had no strength left to fight.

I found the strength.

I carried on and would not give up. Every day, I would pick myself up and start again. I would make another phone call. Build another connection. Develop another relationship. I worked every hour I could. Someone even told me that I was going to fail, but that just made me even more resilient and determined to never give up. However hard one day was, I would tell myself that the next day would be better and Belong would be a success.

Instead I focussed on my one true passion: people.

Over the past six months, I have built and developed relationships with exceptional individuals. I have been there for them throughout this strange and difficult period. I have supported people through their furlough and redundancies. I have helped with their CVs and advised them on future career paths. I have coached them on interviews – some of which were not even for my own clients – and shared useful market insights. I have even counselled people as they opened up to me about their loneliness of working at home all day, how stressed they are trying to home-school as well as keep up with a demanding workload, and have shared my own personal experiences so they know they are not alone.

I do not make money from chatting to people. And I am not ashamed to admit that for six months, I made no money. But I am bloody proud to say that for six months, I helped people. If those individuals remember me as the head-hunter who they could call on in the bad times and who genuinely cared – irrespective of there being no money to be made – then it was six months well spent.

I learned that I was stronger than I ever imagined.

I knew I was pretty resilient already – from leaving school at 16 to build a career; to leaving a corporate city job to start up my own business … but I found a new level of strength.

Never doubt the strength and capability you have inside you.

What I am trying to convey from this very long, rambling post (gold star if you have managed to even read this far), is: never doubt the strength and capability you have inside you. However tough the journey ahead seems and however large the mountains you have to climb look, you can do it. Focus purely on you – remember why you started in the first place and where you want to be. Surround yourself by people who love and support you – and reach out to them when you need to, speak up and do not go it alone. Whether you are the Founder of a start-up, a C-Suite Executive or a graduate just beginning your career – we are all fighting for something.

You will achieve more than you ever thought you were capable of.

Although it feels as if our progress is being halted by new government restrictions, do not let it stop you. Keep on pushing. Keep on trying. The clouds are lifting and the pages are turning of our next chapter. Good times are coming. Very, very soon.

Keep safe and keep dreaming,

Jess x

I think this picture sums up the reality of working from home for all of us! This is me in my home with my trusted companion (Coco) by my side – teaching her the recruitment ropes whilst she’s young! I have always been proud to say that Belong is small, independent and different – not a large, corporate that is driven by numbers, treats people like a statistic and charges ridiculous fees to pay for their office ping pong table and Christmas parties. Instead, you will only ever work with me and receive nothing but a very honest and personal service.

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