Imagine a man riding a lion. People look at him and think: ‘This guy has really got it together! He’s brave!’ But the man riding the lion is thinking, ‘how the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?’

I think anyone who’s played a significant part in the creation of a start-up business can probably relate to the quote above. As we hit a key milestone at Digital 51, I’ve taken time to reflect on the past 6 months and how I’ve had to get used to “riding the lion” that is a start up recruitment business.

My biggest advice to anyone about to embark in what we’ve done. Reign in the expectations when you first start out, that first month is just survival. Day at a time, take a win, take a positive and move on. Fail fast, get over it and move forward inch by inch until you begin to settle in. The first month is not a time for doubt, procrastination and trying to reach perfection. Looking back, I was so determined to succeed and set such pressure on myself to hit the ground running it broke me. To use a cricket analogy, I wanted to clear the ropes with a boundary early and neglected the single to keep the scoreboard ticking over. That big moment to settle the nerves didn’t come. I found myself flustered, panicky and the nerves had crept in. I can’t say it was due to being under prepared – I’d quit a job 2 months earlier to focus on the business, get back in recruiter mind set. Perhaps I’d underestimated the challenge, blinded by just how great our brand looked, our plan, our vision and just how experienced and successful we’d all been in our prior jobs.

Month 2 and the enormity of the challenges really kicked in. Running a desk and helping to run a business, building my individual brand from scratch, embracing video tech, the short-term need and pressure to make an impact not just for the business but also to prove to myself I could do it. I was forgetting to enjoy it, forgetting to have fun, and forgetting to communicate with the team. Summed up perfectly when I completed my first placement. The feeling of joy and euphoria…. nope! just sheer relief! Imposter syndrome was taking over and looking back now I just needed to be patient and give myself a break.

Skip forward a few months to the time of writing and it’s pleasing to rattle off some amazing wins both in an individual and collective level. Personally, I’m so proud of the placements I’ve made, the relationships I’ve developed, the feedback has been humbling and makes me content knowing I’ve gone about my business in the right way. My past recruiter career I was very transactional, it was all about the fee and the end result. This time is much different, we love partnerships and we’ve stuck to that mantra. We’ve walked away from businesses that don’t allow us to be who we are, and we’ve gravitated towards inspiring scale ups where we’ve really been able to make an impact. Our client board is bursting at the seams with amazing and inspirational brands we’re proud to call our partners. Just the other day a fantastic new tech for good business called us for help on their scale up hiring project. It may not be seen as a big deal but to us its validation of our brand and confirmation that our positive reputation is spreading.

Another day and some more great feedback in the last 7 days from one of my partner clients ‘I am a recruiter sceptic, but with you guys I am converted!’  This makes it all worth it. The late nights, the extra work, the sacrifice, and mental anguish at times in our ‘rise and grind’ industry. It’s not a physical sport recruitment, it takes a toll on you mentally if you let it so receiving feedback like this and celebrating the success, we’re having is vital.

Back to the lion. I’m controlling the reigns a little better! I’m still at times feeling like I’m holding on for dear life, perhaps still not fully embraced the sheer magnitude of the role I signed up to. I consider myself a natural leader, but I’ve been at times so head down desperate to prove myself back on the tools ‘desk-side’ that I haven’t given myself enough time and space to step back and look at the future. Days come and go at a million miles an hour and at times I want to slow the lion down, agree on and lead in direction we need to go. We’re at a huge milestone right now, six crazy months down, our first new starter confirmed. Another proud moment.

The business will change, it will evolve and personally I need to drive it more and embrace tough decisions and be bolder. Allowing myself a little break a month or so ago, felt like a turning point. Finally, I’ve began to settle into much more consistent routine, less worrying about the what if’s and much more doing has helped. I know I have to deal with the micro setbacks and disappointments better, focus on the big picture and get there inch by inch.

Any regrets on signing up to all this? Of course not! Has it been tough? You bloody bet it has! It was always going to be. Just maybe in ways I didn’t expect!

So much now to look forward to in he next 6 months and beyond, I just hope I can hold onto the lion!

The article was written by Alex Hall, Co-Founder and JavaScript Partner at Digital 51.