It’s hard to believe that I decided to start my own business 16 years ago, especially as I now operate two businesses at the same time and I have been told that I make it look easy.
Let me take you back in time to 1997 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time. I was struggling to pay my bills after divorce and my priority was ensuring my 4 children and myself had a roof over our heads and food, so the added challenge of cancer meant my stress levels were very high.
The year 2000 saw me counting the days until I was 3 years cancer free, living with my soon to be second husband and 4 children, all of us working on becoming debt free, when I was diagnosed for the second time with breast cancer. Friday the 13th August was the day of my double mastectomy, followed by implants, a long operation which made me very sick. One month later I was back in hospital due to a serious infection and my implants had to be taken out leaving me with many emotional and physical scars to live with.
Five months later, January 2001 saw me back at school for a one year course, Business Administration. I found it very challenging being a student again because I was shy and had very little self esteem as a young girl attending High School in the UK. I was too embarrassed to ask the teach for help because I did not want her to think I was an idiot, and to be honest, in those days the teachers concentrated on the high flying students.
The second week of my course saw me listening to a motivational speaker, something I had never had the chance to do before.The speaker inspired me to stand in line with the other students who wanted to speak to him and my question was “How can I do what you are doing”? I have no idea to this day how my fear was overcome and how I was able to make an instant decision in a split second that I wanted to become a motivational speaker. My first thought was how many people I could help. My first thought was not how much money I could make.
During my year at school due to a teacher overhearing me asking the motivational speaker my question I was offered speaking opportunities at my school and others around my local community. I actually stood up for 1 hour and inspired the audience to ask me questions, clap and tell me how wonderful I was and how I had helped them by sharing my story.
Beginning of my New Life
It was very exciting graduating my course and then having all the time I wanted in my then makeshift office which was situated in my family room. I had a website, business cards and I was a wonderful speaker so I sat there and I waited. This was the time before social media but I soon realised I must be missing something, no one was emailing me or phoning me to offer me speaking gigs, why on earth was that?
It became obvious to me what I was not doing once I researched other motivational speakers online, they had an online presence, a brand, credibility and people knew who they were! At this point the problem was obvious to me, it was not about people coming to me, it was about me going to them, whether it was online or face to face. I had a lot of work to do and whilst I was doing the work I would not be making any money, which including me having a plan before I started.
Plan to Build Strong Business Foundations
- My website was an unknown entity, it had no impact on my online presence because the search engines were not interested in it. I had nothing on there that would assist me, such as SEO or fresh content.
- My brand which I had built at school was only half finished, was invisible to others, and I had no idea how involved building a brand could be. I had assumed it was just about my business name, website and a little bit of marketing.
- Networking was not something I had considered, mostly because I had no idea how important it was but also because all those years ago free networking events were not readily available.
The above list is the tip of the iceberg where my business plan was concerned, I kept it simple because I felt I would feel overwhelmed if I made my list too long. But, and this is the important part, I set short and long term goals and wrote them down so that I could see them every day.This included adding, bit by bit, to my list of things To Do at a time that would work for me.
I am a very disorganized person, in as much as most of the stuff in my head is not written down, and I have an untidy office. In my early years I could keep up with not having everything documented or filed away, but as my businesses began to grow I knew it was time to offload the work I did not enjoy and had no time to do. I hired a virtual assistant, and it has worked out wonderfully for me. In my opinion hiring someone you know well, and can trust is the way to go, but if you don’t know anyone ask your friends, family and business contacts for referrals and take your time making a decision.
I don’t believe any of us are ready for the growth spurt, when our business really takes off and we have so many more tasks, such as business meetings, travel, planning for the year ahead, to name a few. This is where our business plan really comes to the fore, because by setting short and long term goals we should be able to forecast our expected growth. For instance I knew I wanted to be able to afford my own leased car and have my branding on it. But in order to do that I had to work backwards and estimate how much more revenue I needed to make in order to afford a small marketing initiative. Our business plan should have already included how much we need to live on each month, i.e. pay ourselves first.
Growth also offers some challenges for our significant others, family members and friends. We may become so busy we forget to take time off to spend with our loved ones. In my case having two businesses which have a global reach my growth meant traveling more, which I love, but it’s not always easy. If we have children which I have, depending on their needs it might mean not being able to travel or if one of the children is sick, but not seriously, who would be able to take care of a sick child?
We all have challenges in our lives, and my life is no different. Being able to cope and make decisions means looking at our challenges from outside of ourselves, and working out if the challenge means we can’t work during that challenge. Operating a small business often means we do it all, but walking away for any period of time could mean the end of our business. Choices are there for us but we have to take the time to work out what’s the best for us, because if we continue to work and we are unhappy, that can lead to serious health challenges, such as stress. On the other hand we can’t keep taking time off work, even our own business, when smaller challenges arise, and this is never easy but it’s about rational thinking and again those all important choices.
The Present Time
Fast forward to the present time and I am living the life I never dreamt I would have, mainly because my goal in life was to be a wonderful wife and mother, I had no idea I would be operating two businesses! My life is wonderful, but still filled with personal and business challenge, that’s life. I travel the world, often with my soul-mate husband, sometimes for my work and sometimes for his. I love my life, I feel truly blessed and as time goes on I make new choices, sometimes better ones, because it’s a different time in my life.
Is it Worth it?
I can’t speak for you, but for myself, a wholehearted YES, it’s definitely worth all the work, the tears, the uncertainty, the drama, the fears, lots and lots of emotions. Until the day when I feel I am not enjoying being a business owner any more ( which I can’t see in my future), I will continue on this roller coaster journey that for me was unexpected but a wonderful opportunity. Starting a business is never easy but if it’s your passion and you love what you are doing you will succeed!