The perils & rewards of our 180° turn

When I founded The Conscience Organisation, I never imagined it would take nearly two decades to get it to where it is now. The journey has been exciting, glorious, sometimes perilous but always, deeply rewarding. It feels as though I have traversed mountains, valleys, rapids and tornadoes. There have been waves (big ones), the occasional gold rush and even a fountain of bubbling lava as my companions.

The Turning Point

After years of ups and downs with revenue, partners, teams and emotions, it took a visit to the rural outskirts of the state of Bihar, India with Global Citizen in 2016 for the penny to drop … and drop it did! 

Nearly 1 billion people defecate in the open. Sustainable Development Goal Number 6 is Sanitation. So while I was learning the behaviour change method by Water Supply Sanitation Collaborative Council for an anti-open defecation program ahead of World Toilet Day, I realised that back home, The Conscience Organisation was largely in the business of selling lots unhealthy crap (boom tishhhh)…to millions of Australians, and we were exceeding our KPIs. It didn’t sit right.

The Reaction

I returned to Australia and made a commitment to myself… I had to find a better way. About a year rolled on … same old, same old … kinda. I started a fresh food/farmer’s market business called For Goodness Sake…and failed. Great theory, great execution *see video below. Terrible due diligence on my part, my head blinded by my heart!

The Breaking Down

Moving into 2018, things were stinking. Partly me, partly what we were doing in the business – it’s never just one thing before the message becomes clear. I felt disillusioned and disconnected about some major contracts we held. They were all yielding good revenue but I was changing; my outlook, my passions, my direction. These contracts pushed away. At the same time, we won bigger, more aligned contracts, like a Global Long-Term Agreement with UNICEF out of New York, working with the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, working on a film for Beygood4Burundi

In any case, I was faced with a 60% drop in revenue, and equal redundancies. I realised I had put great people on the bus in the wrong seats. I knew I was responsible, and that the choices and actions I was making were out of step with how I was evolving and who I was becoming.

What followed was months of heartache and anxiety. I was looking into the abyss. Dancing with the unknown is an awful thing for any business person. At the time, I was dipping into family savings, selling off superfluous ‘stuff’ from my life and thinking daily about giving it all up. Little did I know that was all part of the masterful reengineering of my professional life and undoubtedly my personal life too. 

The Breakthrough

It took 6 months to turn everything around. Actually, even now, 12 months on, there is still some ‘turning’ to do. This is my new normal – always making shifts … comfort is dangerous! For me at least.

In 2019, most of our work is now having a positive impact on the world. Helping UNICEF with their End Violence initiatives across Latin America and the Caribbean, shining the light on impact investment through Christian Super and helping drive students into Universities across the world with Educo Global.

The Moment

Our team is smaller now, more cohesive, more agile and definitely more focused. The work we do is invigorating, rewarding and making a difference. The people we are partnered with match our values. And the business is today, more profitable than it was at its ‘biggest.’ My cup is full. I feel more content…for now! 

The Take Home

  • Set your intentions and be prepared for the ride – don’t assume anything.
  • Without the bitter, the sweet ain’t as sweet. 
  • Bigger isn’t always better.
  • Be careful what you wish for.

We search hard and we work hard to achieve things we think will bring us happiness. That’s how society and consumerism is geared. I’ve discovered that the answer lies in helping others.