As I left my excellent corporate job in 1985 to start
my own consulting company, I left with stars in my eyes and dreams
that were soaring. I knew that I would quickly become a successful
consultant with many clients all clamoring for my services. More than
that, I'd be able to work at home and lose the long commute. I'd be
able to have casual day every day unless I was seeing clients. Alas,
I very quickly discovered that clients were not beating down my door,
that real stars only come out at night and that dreams could rapidly
crash. What I discovered was that the "solo" life was not all it was
cracked up to be. There were several challenges I had not considered
that I would have to overcome to become successful. These are not
easy steps, but if you follow in my path, you will have a start on
having it "MADE."
When I left to start my own company, my major motivation was escaping
from the environment that I was in. I had been in a company-creation
role and assumed that I would be equally successful in creating my
own company. I also imagined the money I would be earning - two to
three times my salary I was sure. I had done no real research, had
not checked out the competition, and had not assessed my own reasons
for going solo. I quickly discovered that escape from is not a good
motivator - you should be moving towards something you greatly desire.
Money is not a good motivator either - most of us predict much greater
earnings in the early years than we ever see. I bought office furniture,
a computer, letterhead and other stationery, had a logo designed and
then looked around and remarked, "Oops, no clients." I needed to look
inside myself to discover what my real motivation was for continuing
this newly created business.
I had a great attitude when I left my old company. The sky was the
limit. I was positive I could do anything. But in a very real world,
there are "dream-busters" - those people in our immediate circle who
say, "How could you possibly have left such a great job?" "What can
you possibly offer as a consultant that is not already available?"
"How are you going to get clients?" "What are your rates going to
be?" "How can you live on that?" I had answers to none of the questions
and my attitude quickly shifted from positive to negative - "What
have I done?" "What could I possibly have been thinking?" These questions
stonewalled me and I lost momentum, all my efforts rapidly grinding
to a halt. I needed to keep my dreams and goals in front of me, to
realize that there would be ups and downs in the journey but that
it was still worth traveling. I needed to realize that rejections
were not of me, personally, but of my sales role or my consultant
role. I needed to practice telling people who I was and what I was
about if I hoped to sell them on utilizing my services. I needed to
Ouch! I hate that word! One of the first things I discovered is that
it was much easier to play solitaire on my computer than to make calls.
It was much easier to wander out to the kitchen and pick up a snack
than to work on a direct mail piece. It was much easier to pick up
the phone and call folks back at the office than to get out of my
office to call on prospects. Though those activities may have been
easier, they did and do not bring in clients! I had to set daily,
even hourly, objectives for myself - then reward myself if I accomplished
them. I had to get out of bed and go to the office even if I was tired
and wanted to sleep longer. I had to keep educating myself to keep
current in my field. I had to learn to be my own secretary and mail
person and boss. It takes a great deal of "stick-to-itiveness" to
be successful as an entrepreneur. Another discovery was that this
was not an 8-5 job - this was 10, 12 hours a day, five and six days
a week! Self-discipline was mandatory if I was to even begin, much
less succeed, in my endeavor.
When I worked for the large company, there were always people around.
Someone was always dropping in to chat, or to discuss an idea, or
to brainstorm with me. I loved the camaraderie of the group - the
give and take, the bantering back and forth that continually went
on. To my horror, I discovered that when I went solo, solo means alone!
I don't do well without people around. I was lonely. I kept looking
for ways to talk to people - I even became quite conversant with my
dog! To meet the need for people, as well as to make contacts that
could become clients, I found I needed to get out of my office, to
go to where people were. I joined a couple of networking groups -
one specifically for women business owners, another where leads were
the order of the day. I joined the chamber of commerce and participated
in its training and its networking events. Now I had the camaraderie
I had been lacking in my home office AND I had solitude to work when
I needed it.
If you're going to go solo, you must have MADE several decisions:
What is your motivation? How is your attitude - will you be able to
handle the dream-busters and the rejections that will undoubtedly
occur? Are you disciplined enough to work on your own, without having
to report your progress to someone else? Where will you get encouragement
and the energy to go on? If you can answer these questions, have a
viable business idea and sufficient financing, you will be well on
your way to having it MADE!
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