For the past couple of months, we’ve been talking about balance with the inspirational people we meet through The Good Stuff as part of our Freedom Series. Since The Good Stuff was born out of us wanting people to have the freedom to choose how they spend their time in life, we thought we’d share our thoughts on what freedom means to us.
We sat down with our friend Abby to chat about the struggles of starting a business, how we keep ourselves in check, and how we define freedom for ourselves.
How do you define freedom?
Mike: I think are a lot of different types of freedom, and the world we live in offers us a lot of it compared to even 50 or 100 years ago.
But I think there are three freedoms that people should have more of: freedom of time, freedom of activity (which includes health), and the freedom to move, to go where you want to go in a given day or year.
That's how I define freedom for myself. When I’m checking if I have balance in my life, I ask myself if I have those three freedoms.
Freedom is the ability to take a step back and disconnect.
Graeme: Freedom is the ability to take a step back from the hustle and bustle from time to time, and disconnect. It means having the physical ability to work overtime or delegate, and the mental ability to turn off the work brain and do something in the moment. Some days I have it, some months I don't - and that’s ok!
Why did you choose the entrepreneurial path?
Mike: Both my parents ran their own businesses, so as a kid it always seemed like an attractive path for me. My timeline was a little different though - I definitely thought I was going to be working as an employee for 10+ years before going out on my own.
Even with The Good Stuff, at first, it was meant to just be a side project, a creative outlet for me to grow my skill set on something fun. But as it evolved and gained momentum, I got almost addicted to working on it.
When we were starting with the idea, I was living in San Francisco, an amazing city with tons to do. But I would find myself itching to just go home after work and figure out things for The Good Stuff.
So I thought, there’s no point in me bouncing around another city when I knew I needed to just scratch this itch. Once the idea burrowed in there, it almost didn't feel like a choice. It was something I had to do.
Graeme: My early work life was spent in owner-operated businesses - I always tried to be a sponge for stories while having beers after long days.
It was during my second co-op with a Fortune 50 company that I started working on the TGS concept with Mike, and was excited enough about the opportunity to keep working on it in lieu of a corporate management training program.
I was naive and underestimated uphill battle faced by venturing into entrepreneurship as a kid in his mid-20’s with a few years of “work experience”. Maybe I recognized the value of getting started early, or maybe I lacked a connection to, or emotion for, a corporate 9-5.
What are some of the struggles of being a young entrepreneur?
Graeme: I’m one of the only entrepreneurs in my friend crew, with the majority of friends either in the trades or corporate positions. Since the problems we face are so different - it’s a bit of a lonely journey... but that’s why we all have hobbies! I am extremely lucky to have people around me who all work just as hard, and enjoy their time away. Not to mention, take care of the tab from time to time.
Something else that comes up often is negotiating with and against businesses run by people 20 years my senior - and being taken advantage of for it. It has been a wakeup call in no-bullshit capitalism - and helped inform me as to how and with whom we do business.
Mike: What I struggle with the most is my internal dialogue, what I call the tyranny of ‘should’.
When I’m working hard I tell myself I should be spending time enjoying myself, but when I’m not working I’ll find myself feeling guilty about the work I need to do. It can be really hard to find that balance internally - it’s like having homework for life.
But to me, it's a trade-off that’s worth it, because you get to have the freedom to make those choices about your time yourself instead of having them prescribed to you by a job.
How do you work on The Good Stuff in a way that gives you freedom?
Graeme: Over the years, we’ve gotten far more effective at clarifying our roles and responsibilities within the business - freeing us up to be strategic and focused in a day's work. Instead of brainstorming on marketing initiatives and our digital strategy, I give my full attention to the things that are in my wheelhouse and let Mike tell me what's important on the other side.
We tend to have better balance when we focus on our strengths.
Mike: Likewise, I think we tend to have better balance when we focus on our strengths. When you go outside of your expertise, which we do have to do sometimes, it can throw that freedom out of whack.
So we’ve had lots of practice over the last few years, and I think a big part of that comes down to trust. I trust Graeme to handle the operational side of The Good Stuff and he trusts me to take care of growth. We trust each other's strengths, which frees us up to focus on what we do best.
Which smoothie gets you through a big day at the office?
Mike: Our flavours are like kids to me, I love them all equally even though they’re different. And have different sales numbers. But if I know I’ve got a big day, I’ll always go right for the Diesel Monster.
Graeme: I am a big Kitsilano Sunrise & Purple Cowboy guy. When I’m feeling sorry for myself after one too many IPA’s, an Easy Greens brings me back to life.