Thinking about starting your own business? Here’s advice from a successful entrepreneur who knows first-hand what it takes to get a business up and running.
This November marks my two-year anniversary of starting my own human resources consulting business. As I look back on the year, I am amazed at what I accomplished and learned. If you are thinking about starting a business, read on!
I always dreamed about having my own business, talked to friends about it, and imagined how it might be. But it was only after two people in my life gave me a push that I started doing instead of dreaming. First, my former boss said to me, when we were both thinking about moving on, “I never looked for a job, I always went out and created my own.” Given her advice, I hired a business coach to help me map out my next career steps. My coach saw my entrepreneurial spirit and encouraged me to start a business. So I moved from dreaming to doing.
The first few months of my business I spent setting up a legal structure, registering the business name, implementing an easy accounting system, setting up a business checking account, establishing a line of credit and obtaining business insurance. Each item was time consuming but not difficult. The more difficult work was writing my business plan and marketing plan. I talked to professional colleagues and volunteers at the Small Business Administration and SCORE, and read books on marketing. The process was slow because I was learning along the way, but I now use both business and marketing plans as daily roadmaps to guide my actions. One of the easier and fun parts of the first few months, for me, was working with a designer to create a logo, business cards, stationery, brochure and Web site.
I also started networking — an activity that never ceases. There are many organizations to join. The trick is figuring out which ones to choose. I finally decided on being involved with a half a dozen organizations, which can either bring me business or help me learn more about building my business or both.
One of the activities I worked on for months was my “elevator pitch,” which is answering the question, “What do you do?” so the listener understands and is interested. Now when people ask, I say, “I have a human resources consulting firm. We help organizations choose and grow talented people. And we help individuals choose and grow great careers.”
I also spent a lot of time creating processes to make my business run like a well-oiled machine. I have processes for making sales calls, following up, writing proposals and evaluating the results of the work I do.
In addition, two wonderful students contacted me this year, both of whom wanted to work with me as interns to learn my business and to help them with their careers. Having two interns adds supervisory and coaching time, but their ideas and enthusiasm has paid off. In fact, my business tag line came out of a meeting in which the three of us reviewed my marketing plan.
At a networking meeting a colleague suggested that I consider joining the Women’s Business Development Center. After looking into it, I had my business certified as a women’s business enterprise. In addition to meeting other women business owners, I gained access to a member directory of businesses that are interested in doing business with women business owners.
For me, the biggest risk of starting my own business was financial. I went from a steady paycheck to a roller coaster ride of payments. Before starting my business, I sat down with my family and asked for their support to ride out the slow months. My husband and youngest child were supportive; my teenager who loves new clothes and CDs, etc, needed convincing. But since my teenager is just a few years away from college and making her own career decisions, I see my move as a way to show her how to live your dreams.
The rewards are significant. I am passionate about what I do. For every business decision, I get to decide. My newfound freedom has unleashed my creative talents. And there is new meaning in what I do. My advice after my first year: If you are passionate about a business idea, knuckle down and go for it!