The best time is now
"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the next best time is now"
So here I am, 12 months after deciding to leave behind the comfort of a regular paycheck and superannuation, and 6 months since officially starting my own consulting business.
Welcome to Margaret Jolly Consulting and my blog, which I plan to keep regularly updated and hope that the contents are useful, challenging or inspiring - or all three .
I wanted to share some reflections of the last 12 months and in particular, the last 6 months, on the experience of starting my own consulting firm.
I had been working in management in professional services for more years than I dare to admit. In one of those circuitous career paths many people have, I qualified as a lawyer, then moved, almost by accident, into a management role when I was 26 years old. I think that was the last time I officially applied for any job. And I have never looked back. I love working in 'human resources', 'people management' or whatever name anyone wants to call that important business role of looking after the needs of the business, while at the same time looking after the needs of the people working in that business. It is sometimes a difficult balancing act (possibly harder I think than Nik Wallender's crossing of the grand canyon, although not necessarily as lethal).
Photo - Mike Blake, Reuters
But it has been a very personally rewarding career for me - I have learnt so much about people, behaviours, business, challenges, teamwork, resilience, diversity and what drives people.
It was time to step out into my own spotlight.
Courage. One of the most inspiring books I have read of late is Sheryl Sandberg's 'Lean in'. I identified with almost everything about which she wrote but one phrase stuck with me, and I remind myself of it regularly - what would you do, if you weren't afraid? It took a lot of courage to start this business. I had thought about it for years but never seemed to have the courage to do it (hence the title of this blog post). Then one day, I just realised the time was right, for a number of reasons - mainly that if I didn't do it, I never would. I remembered reading a poster years ago that simply said 'You know that thing you have always wanted to do? You should do it'. I was at a cross roads in my last in-house role and knew that it was time for me to move on. And I also knew that I didn't want to move into another in-house role. That was a courageous decision and there have been many courageous decisions since then, not one of which I have regretted.
Networking is the bomb! I was surprised by how large my network was. When I sat down and started writing a list of contacts, through all my various roles, friendships, acquaintances etc, it went on for three pages. And that was just the start. I still haven't contacted all of those people. I joined some wonderful business networking groups which have given me inspiration and ideas on how to grow my business, as well as giving me the opportunity to meet wonderful people, and the possibility of workflow.
If you don't ask, you don't get. This is an expression I have used frequently in coaching others about asking for what they want and I had to take my own advice. If someone says yes - terrific. If they say no - you're in no worse position.
Be prepared for knock backs. Having said that rejection is a natural part of asking for work. And something you have to get used to. It's a tough lesson to learn, and one that cannot be avoided.
Generosity is a boomerang. I am a naturally generous person. I'll happily give my time and advice to family, friends and acquaintances if they need it. And here's the thing. There are so many people like me out there. All the time I have given to others has come back to me threefold and I am so grateful to all those wonderful people, mainly friends and other women who had started their own businesses, who so freely, generously and genuinely gave of themselves as I started out. There has been no competition; only incredible support.
Pay for good advice. The caveat to that of course is that is it worthwhile investing in good professional advice, from legal (structure), accounting and MOST importantly, branding advice. The last one is the best money I have spent so far - I love my brand, the colour and the way it all fits together. If you want great ideas for your branding look no further than Melissa Gardner.
Social Media. I love social media and have embraced it with a passion since starting out. And yet I am still far from being an expert, and am learning something new every day. Linkedin, Twitter and Google+ are the main social media channels I use - with room for more. I'm not sure if I'm brave enough to have a YouTube channel quite yet
Keep at it - never ever give up. There is always a new connection, a new experience, a new pipeline of work, (sometimes from the strangest connection or source), something new to learn, and endless possibilities for growth, and new friendships to be made.
I am loving every moment of this ride.
What would you do, if you weren't afraid?