This year brought both expected and unexpected losses and joys, just as life always brings. I was laid off from what I thought would be a long-term adventure when I first signed my offer letter to then start my own small business that had been a long time coming, honoring so many of my callings.
Here’s an honest recap of the lessons learned in the transition and the first few months of being a small business owner. (Not in any particular order)
- Prepare but only up to a limit: I had known for nearly a decade that I wanted to be on the path I am currently on. All the inner and outer work leading up to it was tremendously helpful on many fronts. I ran many small experiments while working full-time that was incredibly informative. And yet, practice as much as you can but there will always be new challenges, insights, and joys when you are playing in a real tournament.
- Think about Product-Market-Maker fit: I spent most of my corporate career building and launching new products and features with a strong focus on product-market fit. As a one-person entrepreneur, it is equally important to think about adding the term “maker” into the equation. If you are not playing to your strengths and values, no matter how much the market wants something, there are limits to how much you can sustain the work (or parts of it) unless of course you outsource those components or hire someone else to run that part of your business. Thank you Jonathan Fields for introducing me to this term. Highly recommend his podcast, the Good Life Project
- Seek to serve first: This has been my guiding force in all that I do. Seek to understand and look to serve at every opportunity (without burning yourself out). Not every move is a revenue-generating action yet being grounded in service brings me back to why I do the work I do and in turn adds value to the people I am serving and ultimately to the business. Jadah Sellner has this beautiful phrase love over metrics that has been a huge influence. To me, that means I watch the metrics but start with love and serving my people. Highly recommend her new book, She Builds – The anti hustle guide to grow your business and nourish your life.
- Plan but only so much: Spending so much of my career writing OKRs was helpful. I ran many experiments to refine what and how I wanted to be of service to the world. And I had to learn to both have some room for serendipity in my plans and learn to trust, surrender and detach from the outcomes. For example, I had a paid speaking engagement invite come from a blog reader that wasn’t part of my explicit plan for that quarter and was one of those projects that truly lit me up and I am glad I had room in my schedule (and strategy) for this event.
- Don’t build (only) with sticky notes: It is very tempting to have “everything” figured out before you start doing the work with real people you want to serve. And yet, whiteboards and sticky notes have limitations. You need a plan, a hypothesis, goals, and metrics but ultimately you learn the most by letting your work reach real people, putting yourself out there, gathering feedback, and then iterating as you learn.
- Be discerning about feedback: It is very easy to try and get feedback from anyone who is willing to share their POV on your business. That doesn’t help (often). Be intentional about what kind of feedback (or advice) you are looking for and what the right channels and questions are. Don’t be afraid to make your own rules, your way. That’s part of the magic of running your own (small) business.
- There are angels everywhere: I have been so incredibly moved by how many people have shown up to open doors, guide, and mentor me in unexpected ways. Continue to serve, give and care and the cycle of generosity continues in its own beautiful ways.
- Be compassionate with your fear: The fear of all the unknowns is big and working with all the fears takes effort, support, falling down, and standing up again. When you know there are more stable options out there, it takes a strong commitment to the “why”, practical tools & a solid support team to swim with that fear every single day. And I can attest that we can get “better” at coping and dealing with all the fear with the inner and outer work we do.
- Build a support team: There is no way I could experience the external impact and the inner joy without an incredible team that included coaches, mentors, colleagues, friends, and family. Yes, it is one person on the outside but a huge army behind the scenes that I could lean on for different components of being the leader of my business.
- Prioritize with intention: While this one is obvious on the surface what I didn’t fully appreciate was the sense of direction an organizational strategy provides as an employee. I am responsible for ALL decisions I take in my business and where I prioritize my time and energy. And making those decisions is often not easy especially in the early seasons when you are still refining your vision, who you are, and what you want to do.
- Global exposure: One of the most beautiful parts of doing the work I do has been meeting incredible humans and leaders along the way from different parts of the world. Sometimes they are clients, sometimes they are connectors, and sometimes they are wonderful humans I meet for a virtual coffee chat. I am so incredibly blessed to have thoughtful and inspiring conversations every single day!
- Honor the losses: One of the things I miss the most (in addition to my paycheck!) is the ability to work with a group of people over a period of time to create or change something. There is tremendous power and freedom in working for myself but the sadness of not having a team to work with and learn from is real. My support team (see #9 above) helps but it’s not the same. I have some ideas on what I can do here but sometimes it’s also not about changing but simply honoring the loss present here. My beloved Linkedin NRJ team, I miss you all so much!
- This work is a privilege: Finally, it is not lost on me that the ability to walk away from a stable paycheck, all the benefits (explicit and implicit) that come with it, and be able to work on a lifelong calling is an absolute privilege. Knowing what my calling is, having the skill for it (and I will be a lifelong student), and being able to financially afford (alongside all the fears) to do the work I do is an absolute blessing. My work makes me come alive and it’s an absolute honor to serve the people I get to partner with in the many capacities my work reaches different people.
And if you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. If you are exploring a transition to self-employment and would like a complimentary coaching session to explore what’s next or what may be holding you back, send me a reply and I’d love to speak with you!
Wishing you a grounded, hopeful, and meaningful holiday season.