To celebrate the upcoming 5th Anniversary of Inner Strength Communication Inc., I challenged you to #AskMeAnything. This week, I answer questions from Eleanor Tan (Singapore) and Sabita Singh (Toronto, Canada).
Eleanor's questions: What inspired you to keep going when the going got tough? How close and when were you closest to throwing in the towel and what stopped you in your tracks?
Let me start by saying that very few entrepreneurs experience a smooth ride - definitely the exception versus the rule. When I was starting, everyone I talked to and everything I read said that that it would take two to three years to establish your business and about five for it to really take off. Everyone I talk to, including me, also believed we would be different. Our individual success would come faster. Those of us still standing, look back and realize that this trajectory is very real. And harder when you held a senior position in your former organization that paid you very well.
Many of my peers talk about the two year hump, when everyone makes the decision to stick it out and fight, or choose to go back inside for stability - a regular paycheck, expenses paid, someone else to manage I.T. and administration.
The key for me was that I planned for this. I chose a time when I had financial stability at home. Put my hand up for restructuring and received a package that gave me time while I built my business. I also created my own business plan. What does success look like? What work did I want to do? What difference did I want to make? What investments was I willing to make - time and money - is establishing my vision? What did I need to earn to justify this new adventure. What was I willing to give up? What was my one-year plan and what was the five-plan? I'd regularly check back on the plan to see if I was on track. This kept me focused on the long game.
At one point, the thing I struggled with the most was discipline. When you don't have to answer to anyone, how do you keep working when it's so easy to be distracted? In 2017, I decided to take an eight-month contract in order to get myself back to a regular schedule and kept the lights on with client projects through my extended team. I justified it because it gave me a unique chance to learn about the inner workings of a union, a skill I realized would serve me well. For some, this could have been considered throwing in the towel, but I think it was a key part of my entrepreneurship journey.
The experience reinforced my desire to continue with Inner Strength. It also confirmed that I am not a serial contractor and really prefer consulting and training. That decision and experience fueled me to get over the hump of indecision and fear, and resulted in a fierce commitment to my business and purpose when it was done.
Sabita's question: A lot of entrepreneurs rush back to the corporate world too soon so it would be great if you could share the importance of perseverance and setting up a financial plan.
I added this question because it's so related to the theme of this post, which is perseverance. The reason many small businesses fail, is because they don't plan financially for the first few years of uncertainty.
Some find consulting and entrepreneurship as a stop-gap between full-time employment and end up loving it. Others dream of business ownership, flexibility, being paid for their talent and skills, travel and freedom. Maybe they like the idea of variety and solving problems for a diverse set of clients?
Anything you're truly passionate about requires sacrifice and perseverance. If this is a dream, prepare to do the work.
- Plan ahead financially for entrepreneurship. This is an investment of time and money in your idea and purpose.
- Define what success looks like for you? How much do you want to work? How hard do you want to work? What do you need to make financially to survive/thrive? Everyone's definition of success is different and that's okay.
- Get a coach. I needed someone to help me move from corporate communicator to business owner and marketer. The selling is the hardest for many professionals and it took me a few year to get comfortable with it.
- Your journey is your journey. You learn something at every decision point. There is nothing wrong with trying something new or deciding it's not for you. There is nothing wrong with your career being a mixture of experiences that worked for you at the right time in your life.
- Stop worrying about what others think. Take risks. Do what feels right whether it's entrepreneurship, doing great work inside organizations, taking a sabbatical, retiring, volunteering, staying home with your kids, or finding a brand new career you never imagined. Less judgement and joyful experiences are the key.
I think we'd all be better off if we simply wished one another a life full of new experiences. old comforts, insightful learning and joyful moments. I think there is no such thing as throwing in the towel, just active decisions to go in new and different directions.
For those hoping for entrepreneurship, I wish you the best. I hope you learn about what you love and what you don't.
Stay tuned for the final #AskMeAnything blog post (unless you have more questions) completing questions from Eleanor Tan.
- What gave/and still gives you the greatest satisfaction and why?
- Where do you see internal communications in the next few years and why?