Honestly about what it’s really like to start and run a business

Ariana Mara

Honestly about what it’s really like to start and run a business

In this podcast, Ariana talks through her real-life experience of how to start and run a business. She shares the milestones she hit on the journey of bringing her third company, unleashr, to life. You’ll get a sneak peek into the basic idea behind establishing unleashr, through taking the business online to how she and her team are building a new and different brand. Come and have a listen, it might just inspire you!

Podcast transcript

Hello Everyone,

It’s been a while, I know. We have been busy with preparing for product launches and putting an entirely new brand on the road. I am so excited!

Still very much to do, but sometimes we all need to take a step back and reflect on what is happening around us.  

So much has changed. When we started the Honestly series, we were free to move around. Understandably, now, we act with more caution because of the pandemic.

Also, I have to say that I am amazed by all healthcare staff’s efforts around the world. Not sure if there is a word that expresses the gratitude I am feeling for their work, even though I have been fortunate so far.

Some things haven’t really changed, though. For one, that is our passion for working for our clients’ success. We didn’t stop innovating and improving our business, which, I believe, is what all business owners do because this is how businesses move forward and create value. Which, I would say, is the essence and mission of a business.

Lately, I have been receiving a specific question, actually two, again and again, so there you go.

What is it really like to start and run a business?

Well, for me, it has been exciting, liberating, mind-blowing, inspiring, and a lot of hard work. So, if you are about to start and run a business and hear all the success stories promising you to get recognized and rich overnight… Well, my advice is to take these with a pinch of salt.

The girl needs to seriously get her ‘shit’/talent together to start a business that is born to succeed. Because, obviously, we all go for success. Statistics show though that only 10% of businesses are running after a few years.

I am not telling you this to ruin your dream or motivation about starting and running a business. Without dreams, your soul will be in trouble. And your drive will prove to be one of the most valuable assets when you run a business.

Today, let me tell you about experiences related to a few important milestones in the life of my business. I will jump right to unleashr, which is my third company.

I know there are many entrepreneurs out there who had multiple companies and learned the business by doing. I believe I am one of them. Even though I learned about business at uni, life has taught me so much. Also, in the line of entrepreneurs, perhaps, being luckier than most, I don’t have rags to riches story to tell.

I haven’t been dirt poor, although I had seen difficult times, and all my companies made it to success. The first one had its life cycle, and I decided not to take it to the next phase, but to start anew.

Also, all the companies were, and are, different, as I have been growing together with my businesses.

Milestone #1: Establishing unleashr

So, the first key milestone I want to talk about was when I established unleashr. It was born out of dissatisfaction, as many businesses are born out of some frustration.

Initially, it served business clients only, specifically, in the business transformation space, where I worked with senior leaders of medium to large businesses. That includes CEOs, Presidents, Vice Presidents, and Directors of these companies depending on the size and complexity of their organization structure.

I advised them to lead their teams through turbulent times and helped them as leaders to make the best out of these high-risk transformational periods.

As with our mentoring business, the approach has been unique and innovative. According to the feedback of the clients, highly effective as well. 

I developed a methodology, which puts people in the center. And, naturally, everyone will tell you the same. In practice, in such situations, the resources available to support individuals are so scarce that standardized methods take priority. This is what I was dissatisfied with. No transformation program reported unsuccessful and yet, numerous programs were in delay and reported efficiency drops following implementation. I am a bit of an efficiency freak. So, I spent quite a bit of time finding methods and ways that increase the effectiveness of transformational periods and yet don’t take as much toll on the people. This is what I built in that business.

Such progress and evolution are almost straightforward.

Not like when I took my business into a new direction when we started offering mentoring services to individuals. Again, a bit of natural evolution, though with a twist.

From that, you might assume that I run a business, develop it, and start a new direction equipped with the knowledge and experiences.

Milestone #2: Going online

So, here comes the second milestone I share with you. For that, I took the business online. Inevitable for scalability. Still in the same brand but with an expansion.

Imagine that you are standing in the middle of Times Square, early afternoon, in the summer. Literally, thousands of people are heading in your direction. Many tell you something, want to sell you something, want to take a photo with you. The experience is overwhelming. This is how I felt for the first time.

Gazillion offers around what works online; my head was buzzing from the webinars and courses.

  • What to do with Facebook ads?
  • Which funnels work the best?
  • How to provide engaging content?

While all that was extremely useful, I immersed myself in that world and came out somewhat wiser.
One of the most important learnings was that without a specific view on the brand and the offering I put on the table, it doesn’t matter how good the Facebook tactics are. I also learned that business strategy comes first, even if it is easy to get lost in the tactics.

Milestone #3: Building a brand

The third milestone will be about the brand we are preparing to launch. This is what we are working on. Also exciting, and this one also builds on the success of the previous product and service lines, but we take it one step further. This one was born out of dissatisfaction too.

Building a new brand that is different, and yet will step on the shoulders of a previous brand, is challenging. As with all the other areas of the business, it requires a constant balancing between strategizing and the delivery. It also keeps me on my toes, which I really enjoy.

What’s different is the risk management around it. Also, the challenge to adopt new things: information, techniques in marketing, branding, and the project management aspect as well.

I wanted to say ‘in general’, but in business, there is no ‘in general’, perhaps. So, in terms of the operations, to align the existing business lines and the new brand requires discipline, both in planning and in delivery. That we ensure through project management, all our operations are project-based.

Personally, because I am somewhat of a workaholic, I need to be conscious of my personal time. I also must make sure I eat healthily and take care of my body.
A business owner is the heart and soul of the business, which means your health has a primary impact on the health and success of your business as well.

I hope today’s podcast gave you a bit of an insight into what it is really like to start and run a business.

See you in the next episode of the Honestly series.