Making the leap
It’s hard to believe that it has been ten years since I started my business and as we celebrate this milestone, I am reflecting on this life-changing decision and what I have learned as a result.
Perhaps my experience will help others who are at that tipping point of deciding whether to go it alone and make the leap from employment to business ownership.
In this article I pose and answer some of the questions that I am often asked by would-be entrepreneurs.
Why did you decide to start your business?
After working in a number of senior roles I needed a challenge to do and achieve something that I had never done before. To test the boundaries of my own potential. But there always seemed to be something going on in my life that meant the timing wasn’t right.
The truth is that there is no optimum time. If it’s what your passionate about doing you have to find ways to overcome the obstacles, fears and excuses that will inevitably present themselves.
How did people respond?
I had a well-paid job (I was a CEO at the time with all the benefits that go with it) and people thought that I was giving up and taking a massive risk. I got sharp intakes of breath, quizzical looks and question such as:
“Have you gone crazy?” “What you are going to do it fails?” “Why now?” “Why are you giving up a perfectly good job to take such a risk?” “You know that this is a bad time to quit your job don’t you?” “Aren’t you too old to do this?” (I was in my 40s!)
But it wasn’t all negative comments; I also got support from some surprising places too. I felt sure my dad would think that I was being irresponsible and irrational, but he simply smiled and said, “even when you were a little girl you always wanted to start your own business.” Wow, I hadn’t anticipated that response from him.
How did you deal with these responses?
Firstly, I made it clear that I wasn’t giving up. That this was a new beginning for me. Secondly, I told them that this is something that I had wanted to do for years and that I now felt compelled to stop talking about it and go for it.
Do you have any regrets?
My only regret is that I didn’t follow my dream sooner.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t always easy and at times describing it as “challenging” is a gross understatement, but the joy far outweighs any moments of worry or frustration. I simply love what I do and helping others to succeed makes me quite delirious – ask my husband and my daughter!
What is your advice to would be entrepreneurs?
As it has been 10 years since I made the leap, I have 10 pieces of advice for anyone who is contemplating leaving a job to start their own business:
- Be clear about why you are doing it as this will sustain you during the tough times (and there will be tough times).
- Make sure that you add value for your customers. It is often said that most businesses fail, because of under investment/capitalisation. While this may be true, I have seen many start ups fail because their offering is not perceived as valuable to their client or customer base.
- Don’t suffer on your own – ask for help. Whether you find a mentor, a coach or go to a business support company, you must get advice from other people who have “been there, done that and bought the t-shirt.”
- Paradoxically, while advice and support is a must, follow your dream. If you are passionate about what your want to achieve and there is a market for it, do not let anyone pour cold water on your ideas.
- Don’t be afraid of failure. Keep trying. Don’t give up. Sometimes you will make the wrong decisions and things don’t work out the way you anticipated. If you have a strong enough why and you are truly adding value for your customer, you will find a way to succeed.
- Be flexible, agile and adaptable. You might start out with one idea of what you want to do, but don’t be afraid to look at wider opportunities or options.
- Don’t underestimate yourself. Like so many people, I lacked confidence in my capabilities. But my customers consistently gave positive feedback and I soon overcame these negative beliefs and fears.
- Be practical. If you have an instant customer base that’s great, but if you have to build one, you need to make sure that you have enough money to keep going for at least 6 months.
- Develop your leadership skills. I wholeheartedly agree with John Maxwell’s Law, which says that your leadership ability determines your level of effectiveness and therefore the success of your business. Keep learning, growing and developing.
- Take a team approach. You need a variety of skills and roles to make your business succeed and you can’t fulfil all of them on your own – believe me. Create a diverse team to complement your skills, even if it’s virtual to start off with. People are always happy to help you to get things going.
Over the past 10 years I have experienced amazing highs and lows, but there is absolutely no doubt in mind that staring and growing my own business was the right decision for me.
I hope that this brief outline of my experience will inspire you to say I Quit and to follow your entrepreneurial dream too. I know you won’t regret it.