Just over a year ago I left the big, safe world of corporate life to start my own business. Scary to say the least and one of the most challenging years I have ever had. I explained why I made the move in my last blog, and now will tell you honestly what it has been like. The ups and downs that you don't see in the movies, plus answer the most important question that I get asked all the time - was it worth it?
Before I start my journey I want to ask you a simple question. Are you living according to your highest values? By values I mean what is most near and dear to your heart. The things that are really important to you out of the seven areas of life: family, friends, business, money, health, learning and spirituality. (To read more about values see my blog post on values). Are you applying your effort, time and money to have more of these things in your life? If the answer is no to this question I want you to do a little exercise.
Imagine your perfect life. Not the fairy tale one you see in the movies. A real life where you get to spend the time doing the things that are most important to you and less of the things that aren't. One where you are in charge of your own destiny, not someone else telling you what to do. Now write down what that would look like in a list of words on the left side of some paper. Feel good? Great.
Now consider for a moment what things you would give up to get that life. What lower values are you prepared to sacrifice to get the higher value ones? Perhaps give up some time with friends for a healthier body or give up some cash for a better relationship with your spouse or even give up some time with your kids to get closer to God? Sound crazy perhaps, but that is exactly the types of choices you have to make if you are going to be most fulfilled in your own life. Write what you are prepared to give up on the right part of the paper and draw a line in the middle. Save this for later.
This is the process I used to finally make the decision to change my life. Not an easy choice, but life is about making choices like these, and usually you have to give something to get something. Similar to the most essential theory of economics; scarcity - that there are unlimited wants and only limited resources to satisfy those wants. The same theory holds true for life. Your time here is limited, they ain't making any more of it, so you better choose wisely how you spend it.
That's why one day I made the choice to leave my corporate life and test myself in my own business. I wanted to have more flexible time with my young children which was top of my values. But also I felt compelled to find out if I could do it. I wanted to test myself rather than die wondering if I was smart and durable enough to 'make it'. So I gave it a red hot go. In exchange I gave up some things that were surprisingly easy to forgo. I guess it is about timing as these things I gave up use to feel really important. For those considering this change right now I want you to be aware of what you are about to get into so let me give you some detail on the top four lifestyle changes I experienced going solo. I hope you learn from my experience, because you sure will not learn about this in business school!
TOP FOUR LIFESTYLE CHANGES STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS
If money is your highest value, cover your eyes right now. The first impact was my income dropped by $165,000 per year. That's right I earn about 30% of what I did in corporate. Interestingly enough, it's my decision how much I earn. My choice (what a beautiful word that is: choice) to have staff, a nice office and invest money back into the business. Instead of taking the cash now, I choose to leave it in my business for the future. My children's future to be exact. One day I will make a large withdraw when I need it for them. Right now I live quite well on my moderate income and you know something interesting - I realised I didn't really need all that stuff I thought I did. The best things in life are perhaps not free, but you can get most of them cheap!
The second impact was the workload. I am use to hard work. You don't work full time and study three degrees part time without working hard. Working for yourself is similar to that so if you're not up for long hours and doing everything yourself, stay where you are. I work weekends, holidays and nights (it's 10:58pm as I write this) - but I cope well with this as again, it is my choice how hard I push myself.
The third impact was insecurity. This was the most challenging for me as I had earned a steady income since I was seventeen (I am 43 now) and wasn't use to not knowing where my next client and payment was coming from. It was stressful. I had kids to support and to be truthful, I had many a sleepless night worrying over this uncertainty. My solution was to get some investors to stabilise my cash flow and allow myself a fixed wage. I will discuss how to get investment in future blogs, but for now let's say I gave up some equity to gain peace of mind. It was a great decision so far.
The final impact I want you to be aware of before jumping ship is the ego impact. What I mean by this is the personal nature of your own business. A Personal Business is an extension of you and if clients don't like it, suppliers screw you over, staff don't love it as much as you or it fails completely - it is all a reflection of you. You can't help but take it personally. It hurts. But the balance of that is you also feel the love. The joy and the elation of it working, clients giving you positive reviews and recommendations lights up your smile and your days.
The bottom line - was it worth it? Simply - yes. So far, so good. I'm still on the journey, but I really feel the most challenging times are behind me and I'm super excited about the future of the business. My business Social Star is growing exponentially and in future posts I will document my strategy for building a robust small business. Most of all, I have loved the experience, even the hard bits. The tough parts are all necessary as they help you learn and make you stronger.
Is it for everyone? No. It really depends on if the entrepreneur lifestyle adds to your highest values rather than takes away from them. That's where that sheet of paper comes in useful. Are the areas you will be challenged in on the left side of do more, or on the right of do less. If money and spending time with friends in a balanced lifestyle is important to you perhaps don't make the move yet. However if business is a high value and you love the intellectual challenge, then perhaps it is the right decision. Most entrepreneurs feel a calling to do something more meaningful and that is a good sign you will persist and be successful.
My final advice is to get some professional assistance to ensure you have the best chance of success. Follow my blog to see how to set up your own Personal Brand, surround yourself with quality people you can talk to and read books. Be prepared for tough challenges and dig in when it get's hard. If you really want it, you will overcome and prosper. I wish you all the best with your adventures and I love reading your stories so please do share them in your comments and answer this simple question - What is the two biggest challenges you face starting your own business?
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