9 lessons from the other side of my comfort zone ...
I created my first business, ‘We Are Unstuck’ five years ago.
It was my way of grabbing hold of my career to do something that scared and excited me in equal measure. It might sound naff but I wanted my work to have a positive impact on the world around me. I wanted to do something where I could work creatively and which would allow me to have a sense of balance to the role I wanted to play as a Mum and my desire to continue to work (‘cause after all, the two are not exclusive).
It felt like a big step but the only step I could take if I was to fulfil these needs. I knew the learning curve would be steep but that intrigued me. What I didn’t predict was the number of conversations I would have with smart, inspiring, professional women with oodles of knowledge, experience and expertise (women just like you) who, having had a career break to become Mums were finding themselves re-evaluating what they wanted from their work lives.
Some of the women I’ve spoken to hadn’t considered entrepreneurship as a possible path or had considered it but dismissed it as something they couldn’t do. Others had started a business but in some way felt that they were not “proper entrepreneurs” because their role also as a Mum diminished this somehow.
In each of these conversations I’ve felt a range of emotions – from empathy, to sadness at the loss of confidence women can experience when they are out of the workplace, to excitement as to how I might be able to offer some insight and experience. To surprise that there are so many of us out there who are doing this, or wanting to do this, or wondering if it might just be possible.
And this is how ‘by Design’ was born. Because women like us need to be supported, inspired, fuelled to know that we can work smart, we can love what we do for work and that this can give us energy (rather than suck the energy out of us!) for the things in life that matter to us.
I’ve shared below nine lessons I’ve learnt from stepping out of my comfort zone to create a business. I hope they fuel you and give you confidence that you can create a work life that works for you and yours.
1. Get the basics in place.
You can do this by figuring out:
- why you’d like to create your own business - be really honest with yourself about this
- what you need from your work life
- the impact you’d like to have (what problem is it you're going to solve with your business?)
the stuff you’re really good at (give yourself permission to acknowledge these). Spoiler Alert – what you’re really good at is probably the stuff you really enjoy.
You probably won’t crack this overnight. And that’s ok.
2. Avoid comparing your start point with someone else’s mid-point.
It's so easy to fall into the trap of looking at someone else and instead of being inspired by where they're at, feeling like we will never achieve what they have achieved.. The thing is - they're just at a different stage to the one you're at. If you're just starting out, there's no benefit in comparing yourself to someone who's 2, 3, 4 or 5 years down the line. Instead be inspired by them and learn from them.
3. Play your own game
Sure there’ll be people out there doing similar things to your great idea. But there’s only one you. That’s what make your offer unique. Use this and your story story as you develop your business.
4. Your first business or work idea will most probably not be ‘the’ idea.
Ideas work best when they change shape as you learn more about them. Imagine your idea as a piece of plasticine or a Lego model – keep adding and changing bits as you learn more about it.
5. Be brave with your ideas and your story.
Share them, play with them, prototype and experiment with them. If you keep your idea(s) hidden it will never flourish.
6. Don’t feel isolated
Starting a business can be a lonely business but there are lots of us out there to learn from and with.
7. You can’t change how much time you have.
Know what time you’ve got and work smart with it. If you’re working for yourself, from home that means no more commute, no more sitting in dull meetings, no more performance management. You can craft and design the time you have in a way that works for you – how fabulous is that?!
8. Ask for help.
You’re starting something new. The learning curve is going to be steep. That’s what makes it fun. But ask for help. And then, when someone comes to you to ask you how you did it, share what you learnt with them.
9. Try not to be overwhelmed by the enormity of starting a business
Break it down into small steps – as small as you can. Then each step will be easier to make.