"As I prepared to meet with my CEO to tell him I was resigning from my Corporate HR role, my mind was full of What ifs….What if I fail? What if I can’t run a business? What if I regret this decision? Here was a risk averse mother of two standing on the edge of the precipice preparing to leap across to the other side and make the mindset shift from corporate citizen to entrepreneurial thinker and small business owner!" - Esther Colman
As I prepared to meet with my CEO to tell him I was resigning from my Corporate HR role, my mind was full of What ifs….What if I fail? What if I can’t run a business? What if I regret this decision? Here was a risk averse mother of two standing on the edge of the precipice preparing to leap across to the other side and make the mindset shift from corporate citizen to entrepreneurial thinker and small business owner!
Although I really enjoyed my corporate HR roles, I was at the stage in my career when I was ready for a new challenge; ready for butterflies before important meetings, ready for stepping into the unknown and trying new things. Ready for a whole load of networking! In my mid 40s I felt comfortable my own skin and was keen to use the knowledge and experience I had built over 20 years. Fast forward 7 months and I’m not regretting my decision one bit, I seem to be doing ok at this running a business ‘thing’ and so far, I’m still solvent!
I must confess I do feel like I have cheated a bit; do I legitimately fit in the ‘entrepreneur’ bucket when I have bought a franchise? Hell, yes, I say! The franchise (called the HR Dept and providing outsourced HR advice and support to small businesses) was my comfort blanket, the business in a box; like making a cake, if I follow the tried and tested recipe I will succeed. Yes, this is all true and the support I get from my franchisor allows me to focus on building quality long term relationships to build my business. The success of my business however is still down to me and a lot of hard work.
It’s been a flurry (well more like an avalanche actually!) of firsts. First sales meeting, first invoice, first advice given, and the list goes on. On my first day in my home office, I christened my lovely new whiteboard and wrote 4 words: Courage, Patience, Persistence and Back Yourself.
“Allow me to indulge you on how those words have kept me focused during this first few months...”
I often say to my 12-year-old daughter who can be painfully shy (unlike me who is a complete extrovert) – just “20 seconds of courage” that’s all it takes. Despite my love of people and outgoing nature, I often had to use that mantra when I walked into the networking event alone, when I made a ‘cold call’ or dropped a brochure about my services into a local business. With a head full of doubts, will they think I am too pushy, will they know what HR is? Will they want me or my service – it was courage that led me to “Just do it” as Nike would say.
Building a business is a long-term game and success will not happen overnight. Persistence, tenacity, determination, resolve or whatever you call it, you need a lot of it in the early days. I am selling a brand, the HR Dept and also my own expertise. It takes persistence to educate and inform potential clients about the brand, my own personal brand, what I do, who I help and how I help and can add value to their business. It’s like being a gardener, I’m planting seeds and some may wither, some may flower in a few months, some may take years to bear fruit. This is where the next word comes into play.
My husband will tell you I am quite an impatient person and he is right! I’ll often ask him during a conversation to get to the point” or give me the “Exec summary” when he launches into a long drawn out explanation about something. I have learnt that small business owners are really busy and using my service is not always going to be their number one priority, so I have to be patient and have become the queen of the follow up. Building awareness of your personal brand means that it may take months of patiently waiting, however when a people issue arises, I want to be front of mind, so they contact me!
In my opinion, this is something women struggle with far more than men. We tend to be less self assured, lack confidence which can hold us back and too easily doubt our own competence, strength and resilience. We are capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for. I have been helped on this journey by an incredible tribe of supporters in my family, friends, other franchisees and past colleagues; my cheer squad who have reminded me to back myself and at times have way more confidence in my abilities than I do. When self-doubt starts creeping in, I turn and look at the white-board.
It’s been a roller coaster of emotions and income (yes you do need a pretty good financial buffer in year one unless it’s been a side hustle for a while). It’s been incredibly rewarding, inspiring and at times terrifying – it’s been the challenge I was seeking and then some!
I know there have been a whole load of articles like this one written about people leaving corporate life and starting out on their own. In fact, it is becoming way more common as we head into the workplace of the future and an ever-increasing entrepreneurs’ economy. I’m grateful to have been given this opportunity to share my personal perspective. If it inspires just one person and gives them the confidence to feel the fear and do it anyway, it will be worth it!