It’s likely you have the skills you need right now to start your own business. You can get (well) paid to do what you love, so long as it lines up with what your market wants. Your office could be poolside in summer, and snow-side in winter. You can start work at 12pm if you wish and take Mondays off. If you don’t want to, you don’t ever need to attend in-person meetings again. Imagine that.
But, the attitudes, perspectives and beliefs you pick up when working for ‘the man’ aren’t only irrelevant to starting and growing your own business, but are often harmful.
This is not an article arguing the pros and cons of building up a side gig while working full-time, or how much money you need to start a business or whether or not you should quit your job to take the leap. Frankly, that’s not my call.
Talk to your dependent other, your accountant and your therapist (and then talk to me). You need to take full responsibility for whatever happens next.
But you need to be vigilant in questioning what you’ve picked up in your job if you want to make working for yourself actually work.
Decisions are crucial – and the buck stops with you
When working in a job, there’s always someone higher up the pecking order to defer decisions to. Even when you’re at the top, there are plenty of mentors at your level (or beyond) to get feedback and advice from.
When you start your own business, you’ll be inundated with decisions – operate as a sole trader or register a company? Register a .com or .com.au (or .biz or .asia, or all of the above)? Do your accounts in Excel, MYOB or Xero, or hire a bookkeeper? When do you send your invoice? How do you phrase an email seeking a favour or an introduction?
These never-ending decisions can wear you down. A lot of people become unstuck, not only with the volume of decisions and steep learning curve, but because the buck stops with you. Heaven help them, some people canvas everyone they can find on Facebook, when Google would have been more quick and accurate, which only adds to further confusion.
When self-employed, decision-making never ends so we must learn to master this: discerning between small and large decisions and making small ones swiftly, while giving bigger decisions a good thrashing, before we decide on those too.
Most importantly, we must decide and move on. We may change our mind later but indecision causes more indecision. And some never progress from there.
In most workplaces, there’s lots of time and energy invested in building relationships, which may or may not involve Friday night drinks, bowling, hiking, table tennis, paintball or (god forbid) karaoke.
There’s a lot of emphasis on “getting along”. When starting your own business, you don’t have the luxury of team retreats and drinks. You need to get busy hustling from the get-go. No bonhomie. No hail-fellow-well-met.
An unfortunate product of team building is that you may start believing that you’re obliged to get on with people that you don’t naturally get on with – people who don’t share your values or worldview. Which can mean a lot of wasted time, energy and angst trying to fit a round peg in a square hole – time and energy you can ill afford when running your own buisness.
“This is the way we’ve always done things”
One thing that drove me insane when I was employed was the attitude that we shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken, and its close cousin ‘this is the way we’ve always done things’.
Progress is the consequence of hundreds of tiny incremental improvements. ‘Good enough’ isn’t good for very long when you’re self-employed. There’s always someone else keener and faster and cheaper. You must to strive to be excellent if you’re to grow a sustainable business and a solid reputation.
Creativity is key
Although there’s much talk in corporate business about the importance of innovation, in small business, it’s crucial. For all the talk, most businesses quash real innovation. Only if you’re at the top of the corporate ladder and adept at persuasion and seduction, do you have licence to make truly groundbreaking, creative decisions.
But as a business owner, your creative ability to see opportunities where everyone else sees barriers, your empathy and imagination and your skills at turning these into magnetic marketing and propelling propositions is central to your success. And the best part? Creativity can be learnt.
Everything you were taught up to this point is no longer useful
Your skills and expertise are the foundations of starting your own business. Your ability to understand people, have difficult conversations, and your knowledge of and connection in your industry are invaluable. But it’s the less obvious things that oftentimes make or break your business.
Most people start their own business because they’re seeking freedom. So don’t recreate a cage for yourself in self-employment. Open your mind and question the beliefs, attitudes and assumptions that working life instills in us.
Remember that decision-making is crucial (even if you change your mind later); it’s not your moral duty or obligation to make others like you; you shouldn’t continue to do things just because that’s the way you’ve been taught. You can do better.
Having your own new business can be the most satisfying thing you’ll ever do. I’m frequently surprised that more people don’t do it. You can find your work immensely rewarding, so long as you’re willing to keep improving and open to questioning everything you were taught up to this point.