Entrepreneurship: Learning by Taking the Leap
One sure way to learn about who you are, how you work, and what you are made of is to go out and start your own business. For me, being an entrepreneur was never an obvious goal nor something I was striving for in my life. It was a series of events and decisions that led me to this path.
I grew up in Corporate America working in mid to large organizations. I appreciated direct deposit every two weeks, access to medical/dental plans, contributing to a 401K with a match, and collaborating with my colleagues. I will always feel gratitude for my previous work experiences and attaining those benefits along the way.
I’d love to say that once I quit my corporate job that everything fell into place. It did not. Although, as I left the office on the last day of my job, I was relieved and could breathe again. After months of sun and relaxation, fear came in with a vengeance. Running through my mind were two jarring questions, “What in the world am I going to do now?” “How will I pay my expenses?” And interesting enough, they still are present as I approach every January.
The first two years, I wasn’t sure about being my own boss. In the beginning I craved the “stability” (steady paycheck, reasonable healthcare costs, and access to a 40lK plan) of working for an organization. And I desired having a routine where I went to an office every day. Although, the world had another path for me. Once I embraced it and took the leap with both feet in, my unclear adventure started to become a viable business. I honored going out on my own by digging deep and connecting to as much courage as I could. Through it all, I have learned so much and am grateful for the experiences. The hard reality is that it is not all sunshine and roses. From the lessons learned, I’ve changed my internal dialogue and questioning. Here are my new reflection questions, ones that I found provide answers with more alignment and truth.
1. How do you want to contribute in the world? Developing your own company, allows you the freedom to create from scratch. It is a blank canvas. The possibilities to create are endless and if you are really open, new opportunities will come your way. You are no longer one of many, trying to mold for the company you work for, and fit into an already built culture. It is about uncovering your soul’s purpose, by accessing that deeper part of yourself, in order to connect with your uniqueness and the best gifts to share with clients.
2. Who wants to work with you? Especially when you are first forming your business, it is easy to have a scarcity mindset. The reality is that you are saying yes to many opportunities because you need to pay the bills and want the experience. Calling and e-mailing clients a million times never works. When the timing is right and people are ready, they will reach out and return your calls/e-mails promptly. Checking in once or twice with potential clients is enough, and then invest your energy in other avenues. Make space for where your skills and style are celebrated, not tolerated.
3. Who’s on your team? Community is key and who you surround yourself with is especially important when you are starting out. It takes energy and time to build that support system. Because you have limited funds, it is especially important to be selective. Where you put your money is a big investment; when hiring professionals (i.e. accountants, lawyers, and graphic designers) make sure you locate people who you really trust. It is finding people who value your business by showing genuine interest in your success. Also, champions are especially important to have on your team. They believe in you and will encourage you to be your best, just because. As a business owner, it is important to celebrate your wins and share your tough losses with allies.
4. What are your non-negotiables? When starting anything new, there is usually a learning curve. As you build the foundation of your business, it is critical to have clarity on your values and principles. Also, being clear on your boundaries and knowing your worth is so important. That self-knowledge will impact how much you get paid and how you will be treated by your clients. Engaging in working relationships where everyone is valued is vital. There needs to be mutual respect between both parties, otherwise you can feel as though you are being taken for granted. Once that is the case, anger and resentment can kick in. That energy is never good for business.
5. How do you act when fear is present? It is all about living outside your comfort zone especially when there is self-doubt. Taking on new challenges can be scary and there is no way to avoid the fear. But embracing the fear gets you closer to seeing your capability and tapping into your unknown potential. Change and trying new things is the name of the game whether it is balancing your Quick Books for the first time, offering a new service, approaching a client a bit differently, or saying no to an engagement that is not aligned with your values.
There are a lot of non-glamourous elements to be an entrepreneur. If you can stomach changing the printer cartridge from time to time, managing your schedule with constant changes, writing proposals for potential business that you don’t always win, and taking trips to Staples quite frequently then it may be for you. It takes lots of patience, time, and energy to run your own show. As an entrepreneur, taking care of yourself is key. There is no allotment of sick, personal, or vacation days, which makes it essential to honor your own physical and emotional needs. Having a self-care routine is critical to having optimal energy to be at your best and expand your business.
My most important learning is to be able to trust and have a tremendous amount of faith when the path is not clearly marked. This is one of the biggest lessons that I will continue to learn as I grow and evolve. Entrepreneurship is a risk and yet comes with an abundance of freedom, flexibility and possibility for you and your business. My motto is that there is enough business to go around and is right in front of you. The future is bright!