meaningful work podcast

Episode 21: Emerging from Crises – to Starting My Business in a Week

May 7, 2024 | Podcast

In this episode, I’m getting super honest and vulnerable about how I started my business back in 2008. Hear the full, behind-the-scenes story – the good, the bad and the ugly.

I share how I went from being “managed out” of a toxic job in magazine publishing to spontaneously starting my own business within a week. Yup, one week! I had no real plan, just a vague idea about wanting freedom and flexibility, and yet within four months, I’d replaced my old salary.

The real reasons why we start businesses are oftentimes negative – job loss, bullying, existential crises. But you don’t have to stay stuck in that headspace. Embrace your new radical identity and start painting an exciting future vision.

You’ll learn:

  • Your leap into business IS radical – own that identity shift
  • Mastering the art of daily decision-making to fuel momentum
  • Using past stories to build an inspiring vision, not stay stuck
  • Having some advantages helps, but mindset is everything

There’s so much more juicy detail in the full episode, but I hope these tips get you thinking about your offering ecosystem in a fresh way!

Want to discover the future of premium programs? Check out my free training – 7 trends that will impact your industry! 

In this video training, you’ll learn:

  • 7 trends for premium group programs that will impact your industry
  • How to have the audacity to own your expertise
  • What you need to do to step up and start playing a bigger game
  • Why your clients are waiting for you to charge premium fees and how to get started.


Welcome to meaningful work, remarkable life. I’m your host, Brooke McCarthy. And I’m a business coach, trainer and speaker. Living and working on the unseeded lands of the camaraderie people here in Sydney, Australia. In this podcast, we explore the paradoxes inherent in working for love. And money, magnifying your impact and doing work if you’re born to do.

We explore the intersections of the meanings we bring to work and the meanings we derive from work. I started my business in the space of a week. I’d just come out of a hell job. This is back in early 2008 / 2 long, painful months. I had been managed out. It was a culture clash in our tiny team. The culture was my boss and I was the clash in our small office. And one of us had to go. It was really a huge blow at the time because this job. My first in publishing and magazine publishing. It was supposed to be my sideways step into the journalism career that I’d been flirting with and thinking about and dreaming of for years. And although I already had solid experience in professional writing and digital publishing, skills that were way less common in 2008. Than they are now. I lacked the confidence and I lacked the credibility, or at least I thought I did. And so I thought this role would get me over the hurdle and then I had taken a $15,000 pay cut in order to to go into this job from PR so. After three months learning the ropes of print journalism, I’d I’d had the probationary period extended and that was really the beginning of the long drawn out ending, which happened over two months. So that first unemployed Monday, I kept repeating to my partner what my boss had said to me during the third interview, and it was just before she finally. Hired me when I clearly should have seen. In retrospect, with 2020 hindsight that something was up because she told me that she wanted to hire me, but she was afraid that I’d take what I learned, and I’d go and start my own business. And of course, I’d rush to assure her that that was the last thing on my mind. I thought I was way too young, way too inexperienced.

I had kind of vague ideas of starting my own business because I certainly loved the idea of freedom and flexibility and travelling the world, doing what I wanted. And, but nothing that had any shape or substance. It wasn’t really, you know, a proper goal. So starting my business wasn’t what I set out to do, at least not yet. By that first unemployed week, I wondered out loud to my partner. And I thought, surely I said to him, I couldn’t do this, could I? Surely you know my boss thought I was capable. I mean, why would she have said that if she didn’t like what a strange thing to say? And I think subconsciously I was waiting for my partner to protest because he’s a highly practical cynic. He, you know, likes to call himself a realist and surely he would not like the uncertainty of this whole escapade. He’s also very financially, you know, conservative. But he didn’t protest. And so by the end of that first week, I’d registered the business name, I’d registered the website domain name. I’d written down a list of services that I thought I could offer people, and I’d gotten the ball rolling on, you know, having a friend help me out with the logo. I then went ahead and and told everybody that I knew what I was doing and I asked people to refer people to me, and I met lots and lots of people for coffee. Anyone who looked at me sideways, I would invite to coffee and through those coffee dates I had more coffee dates, more introductions. I, you know, went through my period of being. Ohh well, I’m all day. Long and you know I. Got a bit fixated by the neighbours because we lived in an apartment out at the time. I’d look out the window at my elderly neighbours. He was on his exercise bike. She was reading the newspaper and I was obsessed with their, you know, their tiny movements and what they were doing all day, every day. So you know, there was a few other obsessions at that time, but in between all of this pottering around, I just got busy. I got busy on Google, I got busy on YouTube, University of YouTube, I watched, learned, tried out every business related digital marketing related. Email marketing social media related thing that I could possibly find and within a few more than months I had more work than I could handle. So of course there was a few, you know, months where I didn’t earn anything but within four months I had replaced my old salary. And the reason I share this story is twofold. The first one is, of course, I had advantages. Of course, I had privileges. I had my lovely partner. I didn’t have a mortgage at that point in time. We had no children at that point in time. We had no debt, much to speak of. I had a little bit of university debt, but. You know, I had an arts degree so that an expensive education or it wasn’t back then.

So I definitely had advantages. I also had the advantage of family friends who a couple of them employed me and they introduced me to further people. So you know that that is amazing. That is fantastic. A lot of business owners will do anything but tell their friends and family, let alone ask their friends and family. For introductions, and you’re not asking your friends and family, of course, to employ you. Please give me money. I’m newly self employed. I need to pay my bills. Don’t do that. Don’t do that. You might be. Invited to Christmas. But you can absolutely, definitely ask them to introduce you to other people, and this is something that I share with my clients all the time and the very first script in or the second script in our lives, the pitch challenge scripts is that introduction and lots of. This, the scientists had been self employed for like 10 years, 15. He is. Never ever, ever sent that email until they do, in life’s a pitch. But the other, more important reason I want to share this story is that we don’t hear these stories nearly enough. The stories that people tell me, the stories that I hear from business owners, is the reason. That people start their businesses, the reason that they take the leap. Are for all. The negative reasons. Similar to me, they’ve been managed out of a job. Perhaps they’ve been bullied in the workplace. Perhaps they have been unceremoniously fired. Perhaps they’ve had a clash with the new boss and gone on extended leave and then eventually handed in their resignation. Or hopefully waited, you know, to be made. Redundant and to have some kind of a payout, but more often than not it is with far less financial backing than that oftentimes, and I’ve heard God knows hundreds of variations of this story. Women tell me I had one child, two children, three children, whatever. And I thought, how on Earth is this supposed to happen? How on earth is my partner supposed to go and work and myself? With these tiny kids, it’s just not possible, and of course it is possible because you know families do it. But let me rephrase that. It’s not desirable. It is way too much stress, too much effort, too much expense, too much pressure, too much everything. For not enough benefit, you know to trudge into the city to commute in your, you know, in wearing your mask, wearing your uniform, so to speak, and, you know, put in eight hours with a bunch of people. You’ve got nothing in common with. Trudge home again, you know, and see your kids for a tiny slither of time. Before you put them to bed. That’s not a life, right? For many of us, there is nothing appealing about that at all. So the reasons that we leap are often negative. They’re often very negative. Certainly for me, and I’ve heard this story from others as well, is finding it really hard to find a job, can measure it with your experience, and can measure it with, you know, the. Skills that you have and and finding it really hard to translate those skills. Into a resume into successful interviews and take a leap into a different sector or a different industry because of course, a lot of our skills and expertise are transferable. Absolutely. They’re transferable. But there is still skill required. There is still storytelling skills. There is still resume writing. Skills there are still interviewing skills. There is absolutely, definitely still networking skills required. To make that leap, and for some of this, you know, it’s just a little bit beyond us. It’s not something that is necessarily easy. It’s not easy at all. It’s something that requires a hell of a lot of creativity and resourcefulness. If you’re not hiring, you know, a career coach to help you with that. The other thing that tends to happen. With people taking the leap is a bit of an existential crisis, and my God, am I queen? Are these the existential crisis is running, you know, low level existential crisis?

Background music pretty much at all times, so my worst existential crisis was in my 20s, my quarter life crisis. And it was. I’m very sorry, this is sincere. Sincere apologies to any friend, family member who was with me at that time. I was so very dull. So very dull talking about all the coulda, woulda, shoulda. What? What was I gonna do? Like I just crapped on a lot about. That you know, and it was, it was really the result of having gone and worked, had some big experiences overseas. I’d gone to India and Nepal and Sri Lanka following university. I’d done a Bachelor of Religious Studies, so a Bachelor of Naval. Raising great bachelors really, really, really good fun. But you know, absolutely useless from a career perspective. And then I’d gone back to Sydney for a year and then back overseas again for two years, which turned into three years because I met my partner at the. End of that. But I found myself in bars in Phnom Penh, mingling with experts and plenty of them, and all of them, all of them. Most of them worked. In Red Cross Save the Children United Nations. You know, like big, not for profits. And they were all doing really meaningful things. They were saving the world, you know, they were single handedly rebuilding Cambodia. There was a lot of white saviours in Cambodia. A **** tonne of money. That was being poured into that country. In fact, I think it was the second biggest source of revenue was charity. But anyway, I was feeling very inferior because I’d introduced myself as a 2 leader and so I felt like saying, hey, I’m just a good time girl. I felt like I was a child among adults. And I thought, well, when I, you know, returned back to Sydney and I was in the midst of this midlife crisis this quarter, life crisis. I thought like, hey, as you do when you’re having an existential crisis, I’m going to go and learn something. I’m going to get a piece of paper that’ll sort me out if I have a very important looking piece of paper that tells the world how useful I am, then I’ll feel worthy of my next step. So my choice of masters, in retrospect, was hopelessly naive, and I spent good money on it. I spent 40% of what I was earning at the time, paid for that masters, so it was not an insignificant invest. Even you know, apart from rent, everything was going on my education and I had really romantic notions of myself. You know, I thought, oh, I’m going to go back to Cambodia, I’ll go to Africa. I’ll be a white saviour. I’ll go and, you know, be useful and relevant and do meaningful work and I’ll feel good about myself because I. I’m good and I’m doing good and I, you know, I’ll drop this kind of label of, you know, the good time girl the two or later. Of course, like most fantasies, it wasn’t really well thought through. And I was way too old at the time that that kind of period of my life was behind me. So my partner is 13 years older than me and he travelled already like, you know, we we have travelled since we’ve done plenty of travel, but he was not at the point in his life where he was ready to. Up from Sydney and moved to Sudan or moved to Nigeria. You know, and live off even less than we were living off, you know, for the first time in over a year, he was finally earning some money again. He was earning way less than he was in the UK. But, you know, he was starting a life in Sydney. So no, he was not interested. I was in a different stage than too. So for the first time. But I was earning half decent money. And you know, I didn’t really want to work for peanuts like, you know it. It was a clash, right? It didn’t. It didn’t make sense. One value was clashing up against another value. One party was clash. Up against another priority, meaningful want to stop this episode? Just for two quick minutes to tell you about an awesome free resource that I have for you. It is a free video training short, sharp, filled with. Insights and value. It’s called the future of premium group programmes and it’s especially for consult. Coaches and values based experts. It covers the seven key trends right now and how these will impact your industry, especially if you sell or want to sell premium group programmes. We also look at how to have the audacity to own your.

Expertise and elevate it and what you need to do to step up and start playing a bigger game. We also cover why your best clients are waiting for you to charge premium fees and how to go ahead and make it. Your new reality to access this awesome free video training the future premium group programmes go to dot AU forward slash future or click on the link in the show notes. OK back to the episode so you know these existential. Crises. They’re neither romantic nor productive in retrospect, and getting stuck, it’s not recommended. It’s a sign that you’ve stopped growing and you know growth or progress. It’s absolutely innate to being human, in fact. You know, with the religious studies degree, the the wisest thing I’m gonna tell you. The wisest thing I could share, perhaps. Is that a sense of progress? Is the closest thing to happiness that we are human. It’s innate to being human. Is to grow. And if we feel like we’re not growing, if we can’t see a sense of progress in our own lives, there is something very, you know, discombobulating about that. So I was stuck in that quarter life crisis because I didn’t want to make a decision. I was very comfortable sitting on the fence and I was surveying my options for 2 1/2 painful years. I was surveying my options, getting splinters up my **** from that fence, undies riding up my crack. And you know, when you’re fence sitting? Yeah. You really do know when you are fence sitting because you don’t want to make a wrong move because of course, when you make a decision. And just to get a little bit academic on you for a moment, the word design comes from the Latin word desiderata, which is a combination of two words, de, which means off and Sid array which means cut. So it means to cut off your options to decide means to cut off your options. And for so many of us, we overblow this. We make it a much bigger deal than it needs to be. Now I made the wrong decision. When I got to the end of that quarter life crisis and I finally sat next to the right friend at the right time, who said to me book any decision is a good decision and it was just the perfect time, right? The perfect person, the perfect time, she’d said some nothing new. But finally I heard it. And finally, I leapt. And I made the wrong decision. I leaped out of PR, where I had been accruing these valuable digital skills, you know, professional digital communication skills. Before this was really a thing before this hit the mainstream. And I went backwards into magazine publishing into a horrible office. Environment that left my self esteem in tatters. It was, you know, it was ****. It was shockingly ****, and I knew I’d made the obviously I’d made the wrong decision within a few months. But the decision after that. Was the decision I made 16 years ago to start my own business to take the leap to back myself? Hey, if my boss. Thought that I could do it well, I can borrow her confidence in me. And I can take the leap and I can. Do it.

And this is. The joy of cutting off our options. We make a decision. We might make a bad decision, or the wrong decision. But great. Wonderful. That’s one less option. Now we have cut off 1 less option and now it’s easier for for us to make the next decision. So as a business owner, one of the key central fundamental skills is decision making. And in business, you are making decisions every single day and for many, many business owners. I know that this is stressful because I hear it first hand from people all the time. The fatigue that business owners have through making decisions. Causes an immense amount of stress. I would suggest you know an unnecessarily immense amount of. This, rather than feeling into it, rather than leaning into it and it becoming a dance, you know, on a good day on making decisions like pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow. It’s like, you know, like I’m doing Kung Fu or Tai Chi or something. It’s a joy. It’s a dance. But when we lose that skill in decision making, when we allow ourselves to get stuck when we make fence sitting and overwhelm the norm. And when we, God forbid, tell people I’m overwhelmed, I just don’t know. I can’t decide. Well, we say these things out loud. Then we’re losing our power. Yeah, we’re losing our power. The the early. Months and years in business, absolutely. The volume of decisions, particularly in the 1st 18 months can be overwhelming. Like this is the first hurdle. Research and planning for a lot of business owners becomes a full time role. They can’t stop themselves, research and planning and research and planning and. It’s that’s not it. Research is not a decision. Planning is not a decision, it’s the action you take as a result of the research and as a result. Of the planning. So there are many reasons why people leap into starting their own business, and from my experience, many of those reasons are negative. So this means we start a business from a negative point of view. We start a business from a reactive or a defensive point of view rather than a proactive. Perspective and that can linger for years, but it doesn’t have to. It doesn’t have to. When? We can lean. Into our new identity as a business owner who’s made the radical decision and LED it needs to be said, I’m going to have to do another episode on this. Owning your own business being self employed, creating a thriving living from your own sweat and smart is a radical thing. You are stepping outside the mainstream. You are not relying. You know, on other people you are taking your future into your own hands. This is a radical thing. And when you can embrace that identity. And when you can tell stories that build you up and when you can use the stories from your past to paint a better, brighter, more exciting, more magnetic picture and story for yourself then. Everything’s coming up roses real quick before you go. If this episode has gotten you thinking, gotten you excited, or has you changing the way that you do business or life, would you do me a super quick favour and write me a short review? Your podcast review means so much to me and it helps. Other values based business owners just like you to find this show, which is a fantastic gift to me.

Brook McCarthy Business Coach

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