June 6th marked my two-year anniversary as a full time entrepreneur. No more Corporate America. No more nice paychecks automatically deposited into my account twice each month. No more benefits. No more a lot of things.
My time belonged 100% to me now. That was great, but it was also scary. But exciting.
So after a nearly six year career at the Memphis Grizzlies, a couple of years at ServiceMaster, and nearly seven years at FedEx, I began my journey as an entrepreneur.
I had saved nearly $10,000 and figured that it would last me at least six months and I was certain I would be making money with the business because I had been already for most of the year before. I had paid off my truck and my only major bills were my mortgage and my usually pretty expensive utility bill. ObamaCare had come out so I was covered for insurance. I had braces and paid for COBRA dental coverage until I finished paying for the braces. I was selling at least a box of books a month and had at least one paid speaking engagement a month. It was a lot of money, but it was enough to pay my bills.
So I was making money. Not a lot, but I was earning money and putting some of it into the business and paying myself a little…very little.
I had a rough business plan that was always evolving as I was learning and trying to figure out the best way to grow and where to invest. Oh, and probably not my smartest move, but I had started both an LLC and a 501(c)3 organization before I left FedEx so I was trying to figure out how to grow both simultaneously.
The crazy thing is that I was never one of those people who wanted to be an entrepreneur. From my book God had just led me to my calling, and I had to leave my incredible job to pursue my incredible purpose.
The journey has been everything but easy. It’s been fun, rewarding, interesting, eye-opening, exhausting, confusing, exciting…but not easy.
However, it’s been two years, and I have survived/am surviving.
I’m no expert on starting a business or being an entrepreneur, but I’m learning and have done some things right because I still have my businesses (and all of my property).
Here’s how I’ve done it and what I wish I would have done better.
1. Save As Much As You Can Because the Money Does Run Out.
Before I made the leap, I saved what I calculated would cover my bills for about six months. Looking back, I probably should have also created a savings account and saved a significant amount of money that would be strictly for investing in the businesses.
2. Prioritize and Humble Yourself…Or This Life Will Do it For You
I reduced my bills to those things that I felt like I really needed to help me build my business. I no longer had money to eat out, get my hair or nails done. Or shop. I was taken back to the time when I was starting my career and barely paid all of my bills.
3. Have a Plan. At Least a Good Idea of What You’re Going To Do and How You’ll Make Money.
Spend time creating a plan for your business and seek advice from others. Especially successful entrepreneurs. Before I left my job, I had developed some general plans for my businesses. I should have spent even more time solidifying my business plans and gotten more input from others. But planning is something I do daily. I adjust as I learn and grow and get new ideas and opportunities.
4. Get a Team. Maybe Easier Said Than Done, but Do It.
Before I left my job, I had three interns who helped me. I couldn’t afford to pay anyone so I was excited to have smart, energetic college interns who I could mentor and teach and they could help me. Once I was working full time for myself, one of my interns who had graduated asked to work with me full time and agreed to the extremely small amount I was able to pay her. I have had a number of other people volunteer than time and expertise too simply because they believe in my mission (by the way, make sure you create a mission statement and know the purpose of your business).
5. Network. Share Your Ideas and Meet People Who You Can Work With to Build Both of Your Dreams.
There has been no time for me to be shy, intimidated, or lazy. I work every day in person and via social media to connect with other people doing great things. I have had some great partnerships and been able to do some awesome programs. I refer business to others and others support me. Good relationships are key to building a brand and a business so get out there (and get your name out there) and make some business friends.
6. Use all Your Resources.
As my funds got low, I turned to my retirement savings and credit cards. Everyone who knows me, knows how much I hate the thought of incurring fees and paying interest so these options did not appeal to me. However, I was thankful that I had made smart choices early in my career and had built a great retirement fund and good credit making these options available to me. To fund a project that will bring money into the business, I even borrowed money from a friend. All of these things are SO not me, but neither was becoming an entrepreneur so I thought. Most entrepreneurs incur debt building their businesses, and I accepted that I was no different.
7. Don’t Get Discouraged
There have been very tough times over these two years where I have questioned my decision to leave my job…but only for financial reasons. And only for a a few minutes. I quickly snap back and refocus knowing that I am doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing, and I just have to keep working. Hard. Twice last year when my bank accounts were pretty close to zero, I was offered jobs. Big jobs with nice salaries. Never in my life had I been offered jobs that I had not even applied for. The money was enticing and even the jobs were positions that I would enjoy and could do well, but I respectfully declined explaining that I would have gladly accepted the jobs had I not already found my calling. My purpose. So even in the all to frequent tough times, I’m hanging on!
8. You Better Be Passionate…I Mean Very Passionate
Anyone who knows me or who has read my book, knows that I am a brutally honest person who shares details no matter how embarrassing. I have been extremely humbled by this journey because I had climbed the corporate ladder and was earning what most would consider a lot of money, and some months now I don’t even make as much as I used to save in one paycheck. As for time, I work a lot. Late into the night and early in the morning and in the hours in between. It is only true passion for what I’m doing that keeps me going and keeps me from going back to a corporate job. No matter how scary my bank account looks at times.
So even though the past two years have not gone as I had expected and the speaking engagements haven’t come as frequently as I wanted and even book sales haven’t increased at the rate I expected (YET), I have loved my entrepreneurial journey. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, and I expect great things to come in the future. The very near future.