Recently I had the honour of being Rob’s guest on his “IM in the car with Rob” where you go out in his car, drive around and for twenty minutes or so, he interviews and tapes you.
I had no idea what to expect. I knew Rob, we’d met a few years ago and I’d always admired his community spirit and ways that he gave back to support local charities, so I knew I was in good hands.
We hadn’t discussed ahead of time what we would talk about, but I expected the usual questions about why I started Company of Women and so on. But as time went on in the car, we got into more deep questions and I actually had to think about my answers, rather than respond quickly.
One question was around what advice I would give my younger self if I was to start over again, and while I talked about believing in myself and going for it, there’s lots more I could have said. So thank you Rob for this prod to write this blog.
Believe in yourself. I had partnered up with someone to put on my first business conference. Now I’d done conferences before in another life, but this was my first one with the focus on entrepreneurship. While the partnership did not survive after the event, the actual conference was a huge success and I learnt from it that I didn’t need a partner to do this work, I could do it myself. I knew what I was doing.
Trust your gut. When you are starting out, you often second-guess yourself or can become riddled with self-doubt. If something doesn’t feel right, listen and pay attention. Or if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Have a plan. You wouldn’t set out on a big road trip without a map and a sense of how to reach your destination. Likewise with a business, you need to have a plan – not a massive 60-page document, but some goals written down and thought given to how you will achieve them.
Be flexible. I compare it to planting a vegetable garden, you don’t really know what will take off, and what will be left wilting on the vine. You may be surprised. Often businesses evolve from your original idea to something else. So you don’t want to get so locked into your plan, that you turn down a good opportunity because it doesn’t fit.
Build a support network. Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Ditch the “negative nellies” they will only pull you down. You want a team of cheerleaders behind you who will support and be honest with you, when necessary.
Everything takes longer than you think, especially the first time you do something. You need to allow extra time for stuff to go wrong, because it does.
Be realistic on your finances. Often when we start out we overestimate how much revenue we’ll make, and underestimate how much it will cost to get there. Watch your numbers. Do a budget.
Get used to ambiguity. If in the past you have received a regular pay cheque, you may find it stressful to live with the feast or famine lifestyle of being an entrepreneur when you don’t know when you will next get paid.
Save some money. At the start you need to have some savings, because as said earlier, it may take longer than you think to see the money rolling in and those bills – like rent or mortgage, food on the table – still have to be paid.
Just do it. Don’t wait until you think it will be perfect, until you have all your ducks in a row. Take the risk and just go for it. And be prepared to make mistakes, learn from them and move on.
You’re not alone. One thing I have learnt in running Company of Women is that it doesn’t matter what business you are in, the issues are same. Somehow it is reassuring to know that others face the same challenges, and there’s wisdom to be gained in sharing ideas and experiences.
And that leads me to why I started Company of Women in the first place – no big altruistic vision – I found it isolating working at home and wanted to make new friends – women who, like me, ran their own business.
You don’t have to be alone when you own. We are your company of women.
Company of Women
I have had an eclectic career from running non-profit organizations and being editor of a national magazine, to working for government on women’s issues. In 2003 I launched Company of Women, an organization that supports women in business. A prolific blogger, I also write for the Huffington Post, and several other online publications. I am the author of five books on women and entrepreneurship, and co-author of Good Enough. Embrace who you are. Unleash your brilliance. which is available on amazon.ca In June, 2016 I launched Full Circle Publishing offering one-stop services to get your words out into the world.