The seven steps you really need to take before becoming an entrepreneur

You hear it all the time: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Being outside of your comfort zone is ‘where the magic happens.’” Well, this past March, I didn’t just step out of my comfort zone — I hurled myself into the “deep end” when I left the corporate career I’d had for 12 years. I spent a number of months debating what to do and, in the end, the decision was bittersweet.

Being the type-A person that I am, I read countless articles on practical considerations for leaving your day job. I received advice for creating a business plan, building savings, growing a customer base and perfecting a sales pitch, all of which were useful and none of which I had figured out. I finally decided that not fully committing one way or the other was creating untenable stress. So, despite not having everything in order, I pulled the trigger anyway. I was all in.

Looking back, my journey has been perfect to this point and continues to be perfect as it unfolds. Interestingly, while the articles I read provided important tips (and I recommend you read them), they didn’t address the fundamental work I needed to do on myself to make my business successful.

My gift to the readers of this article is seven steps for setting yourself up powerfully as an entrepreneur.

1. Create your vision from your commitments

You’ve likely established a vision for your business or the guiding principles by which your company will operate. If you haven’t, do so immediately! And consider that these principles should align with the other commitments in your life. Does your business support the life you want to create? How so? What’s most important to you? Family? Authenticity? Integrity? Love? Adventure? Be mindful that you aren’t creating silos and that one area of your life (i.e. your business) actually supports the other areas you want to maintain or create. In fact, these areas work holistically to reflect the life experience you truly want. Yes, you are creating a business, but the business is only a part of a life.

In addition, staying grounded in your high-level commitment is a great way to keep present to your why. Plan for when, not if, you will get distracted or don’t feel like doing what you’ve set out to do. Your commitment will remind you of what it is all for so you can keep motivated and in action.

2. Identify your work pattern and reinvent it

If you’re anything like me, one of the reasons you’re stepping out on your own is to establish the ever-elusive work-life balance. Well, I’m going to ruin the surprise. There’s no such thing as work-life balance. Feel free to challenge me on that. But I’m right about this one.

When you’re your own boss, there’s always work to do (potentially even more so than when you worked for someone else), and there’s more riding on the outcome of your actions. The volume of “stuff to do” can be stressful, and on the other end of the spectrum, a slow or stagnant business can be stressful too.

Your immediate reaction will likely be to do the thing that you know to do in similar circumstances. For me, the pattern was to work really hard, drive towards my intended outcome and not take any time for myself. That’s what brought me “success” in my former life. And the cost was a lot of weight gain and being so buried in work that I’d go days without seeing my son or spending time with my husband. This default way of operating also kept me from having the energy to chat on the phone with my friends and family in the evening. Until recently, this had been just the way I’ve always known to do it.

How do you do it? What’s your automatic response to stress and overwhelm?

The key is this: Stop playing that game! As an entrepreneur, work and life will always be intertwined and inextricably connected. The trick is to acknowledge the integration of the two and manage your energy and focus. Make both your home life and work life priorities because they feed into each other. Tend to both. Fulfillment in one area gives you access to show up powerfully and be fulfilled in the other.

3. Prioritize your well-being

In the words of the fabulous RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Even if you’re not a fan of Drag Race, you can see the point, right? Running a business requires a tremendous amount of time, energy and mental stamina. The best gift you can give yourself is to be at your best.

My new career as a life coach is all about being. I am committed to showing up as a support for others each and every day, and in order to do that I need to take care of me first. I like to look at it as a reciprocal way of showing generosity. Showing love to myself is another way of showing love to others. Each day I give myself time to meditate, eat well-balanced meals, exercise and have fun. These intentional investments in myself source me so that I can show up powerfully for others.

What would prioritizing your well-being look like? How would that change your day? What would the benefit be for your business? What would it mean for your customers or clients?

4. Establish a routine

One of the most unexpected challenges I faced after leaving a corporate office environment was my experience of time. At a minimum, I was required to spend 40 hours a week in the office. I eagerly anticipated how much I could get done in my new business by adding all of those hours back into my week. I kid you not when I say that there are many days that I have struggled to find the time to get things done. How is that possible?

What I realized is that disciplined routine is really important to carry on. Yes, I have more freedom and flexibility, and it doesn’t serve me or my business to be laissez-faire with my time. I have created an outline of my ideal day, building in family time and fun, and each morning I write down my to-do list so that I stay on track with my goals. This structure supports me to stay on task and to remain in integrity with all of my commitments.

What does your ideal day look like? How can you structure your business to support this vision?

5. Community is key

My team was one of the best parts my previous job. The relationships I established made my career rewarding and also made saying goodbye so difficult.

Entrepreneurship can feel lonely. One thing I want to emphasize is that you are not alone. There are so many other amazing human beings out in the world wanting meaningful connection. Whether you would find it beneficial to connect with others in-person or virtually, there are so many ways to build your network in the spirit of community, not just sales.

Here are a few examples to spark some ideas:

  • Facebook and LinkedIn groups
  • Industry-specific associations
  • Networking organizations (like BNI or EO)
  • Networking apps and events (like Shapr and Meetaway)
  • Charitable networks (like 100 Who Care Alliance)
  • Alumni networks
  • Local Chamber of Commerce

Where can you socialize with like-minded people? If you’re struggling to “find your tribe” create your own!

6. Get support for your success

Building upon the notion of community, it’s important to create structures in every area of your life to support you in your new venture. A great place to start is with those closest to you. Who amongst your family and friends will support you? Ask them for what you need.

Also, consider the benefit of seeking professional support from a coach, therapist or a consultant (or all three!). The bigger your plans, the more support you should look to create. My coach supports me in creating my vision, staying present to why it’s so important and calling me out when I’m letting limiting beliefs get in the way of my success. My coach also helps to keep me accountable so that I actually take all the little steps necessary to fulfill on the big goals.

Therapy is also a great support because there’s nothing like making big life changes to bring up all the old stuff that you’ve experienced in the past and thought you were through dealing with. If you’ve sought therapy previously, if you’ve experienced some trauma, or if you think you’d benefit from some sort of healing, I recommend speaking with a therapist before you quit the steady routine of your day job.

Plus, there are going to be areas in which someone with specific subject matter expertise can help you succeed. This may be in the form of a lawyer to draft contracts, an accountant to help you maximize your tax position, or an editor to help you write and proofread website copy. Whatever it is, give some thought to what your support needs are so that when you’re ready to run your business full-time, you can focus on what really drives you.

7. Leave with gratitude

You’re not quite ready to quit your day job until you can leave with gratitude, regardless of your experience. What are you holding against the organization or people you work with? As a powerful leader and business owner, it is important to recognize that all of the knowledge you have accumulated to this point has been a gift. Consider that without your wealth of experience — good and bad — you would not be where you are today. Be thankful for it.

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