I recently celebrated my first year with my own practice. I’m not a born entrepreneur; it’s not how I grew up and I never imagined I’d be one. My father worked for one company for decades and my mom was a teacher. We had times when money was tight, when we ate more pasta, hot dogs and PB&J than usual, and I learned to be thankful that my parents were employed. Being an entrepreneur wasn’t an option because it meant an unreliable source of income. It was a scary path to take so when I graduated college, I sought a job that gave me security.
Fast forward several years to when I met my husband. He is an entrepreneur. In our early years, I wanted him to find a steady job that would reliably pay him a set amount every two weeks. I’ve since watched him grow his firm for 20 years. He works more than anyone I know but it rarely looks like work because he loves what he does. I learned that being an entrepreneur is risky but also has its own security: it’s 100% clear who is responsible to make stuff happen.
In 2016, after I spent 20 years with one company in which I was a business unit general manager, a coach and a salesperson, I began to think about changing careers. “What else could I do? What else did I want to do?” These questions bothered me for many months and as I began to answer them, I loved the idea of having my own business but didn’t act on it… it was too impractical for both my husband and me to be entrepreneurs. Then, towards the end of those many months, I realized the only thing I wanted to do was coach people. I also wanted the flexibility to be home more for our three daughters. Such a job, as I envisioned it, did not exist. The only viable option was to build it myself.
If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. – Milton Berle
The decision to be an entrepreneur is an exciting one. There’s a bright future that’s full of possibility and a spirit that shouts “I’m ready to take on the world!” There’s also the inherent pressure that comes with being The One. The short To Do list includes sales, marketing, operations, delivery, quality and innovation. Even though I’d worked for 20 years in an entrepreneurial spirited company, and am married to an entrepreneur, actually being an entrepreneur is quite different.
I’m learning the magic trick of maintaining that beginner take-on-the-world spirit without feeling burdened by – – but still responsible for – – the real world pressure to bring home the bacon. It feels like a magic trick, but I’ve found a few principles that support growing a business while maintaining a positive outlook:
Have Hope. “Hope is the belief that tomorrow can be better than today,” DeRay Mckesson.
Hope starts with knowing what’s real today and likely for tomorrow. This foundation prevents hope from taking on a fantasy-land quality which easily migrates to false hope which leads to disappointment, despair and invalidation. Real hope gives an infusion of energy to make tomorrow better than today; it’s a catalyst to set fun and exciting goals that inspire action.
Keep Faith. “Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death,” Unknown.
Shortly after leaving my job, I read Gabby Bernstein’s book, The Universe Has Your Back and it planted the notion that no matter what, I will be cared for. This perspective is not often reasonable so when my reasons tell me to avoid risks and my intuition tells me to go for it, faith is why I leap. Some people refer to this as “trusting your gut.” Whatever you call it, as an entrepreneur and in life in general, trusting in something more than reason is key to taking risks.
Get Centered. Learn to know yourself… to search realistically and regularly the processes of your own mind and feelings,” Nelson Mandela.
Big deadlines have a way of bringing out the best or the worst in me. When I’m firing on all cylinders and I’m in the zone, I’m centered and unstoppable. When I can’t keep up, can’t stay focused or it feels like the deadline is looming over me, I get off balance, impatient and easily flustered. The circumstances might be the same in either situation but my reaction to them can vary. Knowing the subtleties of what keeps me centered or what pushes me off balance determines how fast and how well I can move forward. In order to effectively lead a business, I need to effectively lead myself.
Take Action. “Be great in act as you have been in thought,” Shakespeare. Launching a business requires a ton of action. I’m a planner by nature but obviously planning alone can’t make a business run. Especially in this first year, I’m not planning as much as I am making it up as I go along. This can be unsettling for people like me who love to plan before executing. It can also be a lot of fun to let the creative juices flow. Speaking of fun, fun has become an essential ingredient for action. Sure, there are times when I have to do things I don’t like but I refuse to do anything unrelated to purpose and growth. Engaging in laborious activity day after day is a downer and while being an entrepreneur is challenging, it is also meant to be an adventure.
I’ll leave you with this last quote, from one of today’s most enthusiastic entrepreneurs, Richard Branson: “Entrepreneurship is about turning what excites you in life into capital, so you can do more of it and move forward with it.” I couldn’t agree more. Learning to lead and grow a business is a journey, and loving what you do for a living is worth everything.