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Going solo at the last minute

Friday, 22 July 2011 | By Michelle Hammond
Matthew SampsonStarting a business can be an overwhelming experience, particularly if you didn’t plan on doing it alone. But as Matthew Sampson found out, thinking on your feet is crucial when you realise that you are going solo.

 

Sampson is the founder of Aspect Personnel, a Melbourne-based recruitment firm providing recruitment services to Victoria’s engineering, architecture and planning markets.

 

Launched five years ago, the business employs nine staff and has recorded revenue in excess of $2 million.

 

Prior to his business’ success, Sampson had to grapple with the concept of operating as a sole trader, both financially and emotionally, as it diverted from his original plan.

 

“I established a strong relationship with someone in the recruitment agency who had over 10 years’ experience in my field,” he says.

 

“We decided to start a business together and go into a formal partnership. Everything would be split 50/50. We spent six months completing a comprehensive business plan, timelines were agreed on and everything was in place.”

 

A week before Sampson was due to resign from his job, his partner-to-be was offered funding to start a business on his own, ultimately ending all plans the pair had made together.

 

“Within a 15-minute meeting, I had lost 50% of our start-up capital, 90% of the technical experience, 100% of my confidence and I no longer had a workable business plan,” he says.

 

“My immediate instinct was to take the safe road and cancel my plans and continue my career at my current employer. I chose to do the opposite.”

 

Sampson resigned from his job, rewrote his business plan and started the business by himself, but the drama wasn’t over just yet.

 

“Starting a business on my own put extreme pressure on both my finances and personal relationships; I was unable to pay myself a wage for a number of months and spent almost all my time at work,” he says.

 

“When I wasn’t at work, I was thinking about work. The level of commitment necessary to successfully develop a business meant that a number of important elements in my life had to take a backseat.”

 

In his struggle to strike a work/life balance, Sampson learnt a valuable lesson.

 

“I have learnt that it is important to keep things in perspective. While I consider the success of my business very important, I realise I do so because it provides a means for myself, my staff and our families.”

 

“They are the truly important things in life, which are well and truly back in the front seat where they belong.”

 

With regard to the business itself, Sampson has learnt to expect the unexpected.

 

“No matter how hard you plan, no matter how many scenarios you consider, nothing runs smoothly,” he says.

 

“There will be unexpected hurdles along the way that will inevitably seem unconquerable, though persistence and determination will show you that they are not.”

 

His final words of advice? Fortune favours the brave.

 

“I took the biggest risk of my life starting this business. Given the circumstances at the time, logic and commonsense would say that it was a very bad idea,” he says.

 

“I look to where I am now, compared to where I would be if I hadn’t taken that risk, and it has proven to be the most fruitful gamble of my life.”

 

“Even if the odds are stacked against you, and people tell you that you are crazy, it’s your risk to take and your opportunity to prove them wrong.”