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Business Suits To Bunny Slippers -- Having Made It As An Entrepreneur
By Deb Haggerty   Printer Friendly Version

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 personal, but for my sales role or my consulting 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 stay positive!


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. Easier though those activities may have been, 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-it-iveness" 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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