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15 minutes with member Matthew White

He never planned to run his own business, but Matthew White said the birth of his first son changed everything about his life, for the better.

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Describe your “aha” moment; when did your business idea first come to you?

I had never planned to work for myself however after immigrating to Australia and working for a large corporate that was bureaucratic, inflexible and in my opinion put money before people a desire soon began to grow. Indeed I loved living in Australia yet at the back of my mind was the constant thought of ,what would I do if something happened to my family in the UK?  I needed the flexibility be able to drop everything to be by their side and with my then current employee this would not have been possible.

Furthermore after having my first son, Oliver, and missing out on his first year so much the wish turned into a priority. As luck would have it a former business associate of mine had a company in the UK and was seeking to expand into further markets, one of which being Australia.

I told my wife first of this opportunity. She was reluctant and apprehensive for me to take this huge step as her father had always been self-employed and she liked the security of earning a regular wage. I did too, to be honest. Plus mattresses – what did I know about selling mattresses? I only slept on them. Yet the opportunity was too great to miss and she encouraged me to go for it.

I then approached my father in law who had decades of experience with importing and shipping – he also had a warehouse that I knew would come in handy for storing stock.  Whilst it is not always advisable to work with family I knew our personalities and skill sets were the perfect mix.

I did exercise caution. For twelve months I continued to work in my corporate job during the day and worked on Ergoflex before work and each evening. After 12 months of incredibly hard work, I was able to resign and become a fully-fledged business owner and begin the journey as a soloist. 8 years later I am pleased to say we are still going from strength to strength.

Describe the “why” of your business

The ‘why’ of my business is assisting people in getting a good night’s sleep and alleviating any aches and pains that they may have. It’s quite ironic really due to the fact my business began at a time when I was getting the least amount of sleep in my life due to the birth of my first child and working two jobs. And today 8 years later I am still not getting a full night’s sleep following the birth a year ago of our twins.

But I am pleased that through my advice and our mattress I have helped thousands upon thousands of people across Australia sleep better each and every night. People often call me, some in tears, to thank me personally for helping them sleep. It’s incredibly rewarding and both moving and emotional.

List your three biggest business goals; which of them scare you the most and why?

My three biggest business goals are to: continue to deliver the exceptional customer service that we are known for, whilst maximising profits, and continuing to grow the business each year.

The goal that scares me the most would have to be the first one, maximising profits. If I fail as a self employed business owner the risks are so much greater in my opinion. I have written before about how I suffer from responsibility anxiety and I don’t think this feeling will ever go away. I have just learnt to manage this fear on a daily basis. It also motivates me to work harder to ensure failure never occurs.

Has anything surprised you about working for yourself?

What hasn’t surprised me is succeeding. I used to attend so many small business networking events in my corporate job and after listening and talking to business owners I knew I could do it, I knew I had the ability to do what they do.

What has surprised though me is how much I now enjoy going to work. It surprises me how fast the working day now goes. There’s no more clock-watching, there just isn’t the time. There’s no more Sunday night, or end of holiday blues. I’m excited to get to work each and every day and I really don’t mind working 7 days a week every day of the year because when you’re so passionate about your business like I am it really doesn’t matter. In fact, I work harder now than I ever have done.

Once you became a soloist, what about your life changed almost immediately? And what changes have been slower to come?

Without a doubt, the flexibility that being a soloist brings and the ability to have a more hands on role in the upbringing of my children. Prior to soloism I can remember distinctly my first son would always run to my wife first, now all our children run to both of us.

However after working for over 20 years in the corporate world I still struggle with adapting to life outside it. I struggle with not wearing a shirt and tie, I struggle with the guilt surrounding flexibility. It’s ridiculous really but I think I always will.

Got a tip you’d like to share with our community about soloism?

At no point in time become complacent. Change can occur in an instant so you need to be always one step ahead. Understand where your business is at each and every day. Continue to measure, record and report on all marketing activities and if you deliver a service strive for excellence.

Lucy Kippist

is an experienced Australian editor with experience in writing, podcasting radio and television, with previous senior editorial roles at News Corp news.com.au, Kidspot and Kinderling Kids Radio. In her current role as editor of Flying Solo, Australia's #1 website for solo business owners she is pursuing her passion for women in the small business space. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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