Hello SOTGC community,
I think starting your own business for the first time is a lot like having your first child…
First, if you are waiting for the “perfect time” in your life to embark on this journey, stop waiting or it may never happen. I was recently talking to a friend about her first pregnancy experience. She wanted to be a mother badly, but kept postponing getting pregnant until the timing was “just right”. First she wanted to achieve a promotion at work, then she wanted her husband to get the raise he was promised, then they needed to buy a bigger house, have a certain amount of savings in the bank, wait until after her sister’s wedding, etc… There was always something. Finally she put the long list of requirements aside and realized that there would always be something else to add to this list. If you are passionate about starting your own business, there is no time like the present. I’m not advocating that you do anything fiscally irresponsible, but explore ways that you can put a plan in place to fulfill your dreams.
I had almost ten years of experience working for two international commercial real estate brokerage houses. When we experienced a management change, I realized that there was a growing gap in my business methodology and the methodology of the firm. I was no longer fulfilled in my career and I needed to make a change quickly. That decision launched the formation of my existing business – San Diego Office Properties. At the time, I would not have considered the timing of this career change to be ideal – I would have preferred to have more money saved up, a more detailed business plan in place etc… But in hindsight, the timing was perfect. Working independently allowed me to employ my own business methodologies and focus on building a relational business rather than one that was only transactional. My business was able to double in the first year because I now had the ability to source and service business in a way that aligned with my natural talents.
Second, I think all new parents realize very quickly that with kids, you must be able to be flexible and deviate from the plan when needed. Children are unpredictable and most parents employ some degree of trial and error when parenting, whether it’s figuring out the best brand of diapers and formula or finding the best way to quiet a toddler in public. Business is no different. It is important to have a business plan, but I think it is equally important to be able to deviate from the plan when necessary. My original business plan involved just working with office tenants. However, as my business evolved I began to get more retail referrals and have now expanded into servicing those requirements as well.
Last but not least, just as a new mother quickly develops an attachment to her child, you will likely develop an attachment to your business that is greater than you could have imagined. I’ve seen several new moms hesitate leaving their child in another’s care for the first time – even if the care taker is a loving grandparent or trusted family member. Usually these moms haven’t had a moment to themselves since the baby’s birth, are exhausted, and in desperate need of a few hours for some self-care, yet they would rather sacrifice their own needs then risk leaving the baby.
I think most psychologists would agree that taking the time for self-care allows one to be an even better parent. The same is true in business. I worked constantly during my first year as an entrepreneur. I would feel guilty taking time away from work to do anything. I was so attached to my business and ensuring its success that I cut out essential components in my life such as working out and spending quality time with friends and family. I began to burn out quickly. Friends and family had always been a top priority for me and I realized that my actions were not supporting this. I made a plan to try and limit the amount of overtime I was putting in, I went on a search to find the right team members to expand my team and reduce my workload, and made a conscious effort to begin working out and spending quality time with friends and family. I am far from perfecting my work/life balance, but I’ve taken some good steps in the right direction.
I’ve yet to meet an entrepreneur that hasn’t been a slave to their business during its start-up phase; however, I think it is critical to keep in mind that at some point you must re-introduce balance back into your life. Just as a child benefits by spending a few hours alone with loving grandparents while the parents take a break, your business will benefit from you taking periodic vacations to rejuvenate.
Remember, if there is a business idea that you are passionate about, it’s never too early or too late to embark on the entrepreneurship journey.
Photo credit: t.cdc.gov