Earlier this week, I was interviewed for a piece in the Guardian on people who had made the decision to go it alone and leave their corporate job in favour of self-employment. I thought the journalist asked some really great questions and have decided to re-post the interview in my Huffington Post blog. I hope it is of use to anyone who is either considering starting a career in self-employment or have already made the step, but perhaps are finding it a little challenge!
Q. What prompted your move to go solo? Did you have any previous business start up experience, or was it a completely fresh challenge?
A: I had tried to start a consultancy business once before, but that was during a recession and it didn't last more than a year. I did, however, have a lot of project start-up experience from my corporate life, and I could see that if I treated a new business in the same professional way, I could be successful.
Q. When weighing up the decision, what did you see as the biggest challenges, worst case scenarios, etc, and how did you deal with them?
A: I only started once I had a bit of savings, as I knew it would take a little time to make a profit. The biggest challenge was getting the word out fast enough and widely enough. Remember, when I started in 2002, social media was not the ubiquitous marketing tool it is today! So instead, I threw myself into face-to-face networking, where I met lots of people, developed relationships and honed my 'pitch'. Most of the lead generation challenges I experienced after that were a result of forgetting to do the basics like plenty of real life networking.
Q. What business help/support were you able to find?
A: I found a great support network at BNI (Business Network International), where groups of business people get together, get to know each other and look to refer business to each other. I was also very active on Ecademy, an online and offline platform that was way ahead of its time. I joined at a high level, so the people I met were other serious entrepreneurs who were also investing in themselves and their business. I also became involved in the Tony Robbins community, taking courses, supporting many Robbins events, constantly learning new skills for my life and business. I believe it was that combination of personal and business development that led to my ultimate success.
Q: How did you cope with the change in lifestyle; working together, different hours, uncertainty about income, etc?
A: I enjoyed the greater flexibility, as I had school-age children at that time. However, I don't think I was disciplined enough with my working hours. I would work while they were at school and in the evenings once they had gone to bed, but I wasn't organised enough and probably could have worked a lot smarter in the early days. This resulted in a very volatile bottom line for the business, which was OK while I still have savings, but not OK once my savings ran out! I think, in hindsight, I didn't cut back enough on spending; I was trying to keep the same lifestyle I had before, on much less money.
Q. Since taking the plunge, have there been any business issues or situations that made you question their decision?
A: Not really. Sometimes I get fed up with having ultimate responsibility for everything. It is sometimes nice when someone else pays for things, makes decisions, deals with crises etc. But then, I wasn't building an asset then; I was just working and earning-as-you-go.
Q:With hindsight, would you do anything differently?
A: Oh, that 20/20 hindsight! I would do a proper personal balance sheet and P&L right from the start, and I would cut way back on expenditure, to allow any financial 'cushion' to last longer. I would also put my foot down on the accelerator much harder and much sooner.
Q: If you were to offer one piece of advice to someone contemplating giving up their job to go solo, what would it be?
A: Ensure you do have some financial cushion or savings, as it can all take much longer than you think to see a profit. Find a group of people in a similar situation to you (mastermind group, networking group) so you can learn from and support each other. Listen to others who have been there before, but run any advice through your own personal filter. Only you know what feels right for you and your business, and you do not want to waste money.