I was destined to be an entrepreneur. My grandfather along with his brother started a successful textile business shortly after WW2 that sold boys and men’s suits for almost 40 years. My father worked in the business for most of his life until the end of the textile era happened when China took over. Dad went on to open many small businesses throughout his remaining life before he passed away too young at 68 from cancer.
His final business was purchasing a 100-acre campground in the Great Woods of Northern New Hampshire. Everyone thought he was crazy for doing this, after all what is a nice Jewish upper middle class white boy doing buying a campground in gun carrying ATV riding New Hampshire? But that is exactly why, because creating business is about risks and stepping way outside the proverbial box. Opposite thinking. This is the legacy my father gave to me. Doing the opposite of things not just because it is opposite, but because it is part of your gut so deeply that you can’t imagine doing anything but this.
There is a trendy buzzword today for this type of thinking, called disruptive thinking. Who knew that my father’s out of the box thinking of having his employees go roller-skating during break time in the 70s would today be a type of disruptive trendy?
My father was the black sheep of the family. Ironically, in his quest to veer away from all things traditional and all things his father did, he ended up marrying by eloping with my mother when he was 20 and sent a telegram to his very surprised parents to let them know. As it turned out I came around 11 months later so now he was hooked into the life he had really thought he had escaped from when he impulsively married,
He worked at the factory for and with my grandfather for as long as I remembered and I understand it wasn’t something he enjoyed. What I learned from him is never do something for work you don’t enjoy.
I never did.
When he finally broke free from his marriage and from the factory, he went on to do numerous start up companies, but the one that gave him the most joy was when he finally bought the campground and sold his share of the factory building to his longtime partner. That campground was his joy and as much as everyone in the white collar family thought he was off his rocker, he didn’t care. He was happy.
Every job I had I loved and if I didn’t I learned why and didn’t repeat it. Being in business means that I am a conscious activist in my business. My business model is shaped by my own objective and the choices I make as to how I want my business outcome. What defines a successful business is not always monetary success as the main outcome. What defines success is different for every single person with their business dream tucked away on a napkin in their coat pocket when its in its just a spark of a thought.
1. Establish Your Objective
My first question to everyone with the dream of owning her own business is first and foremost “what is your objective?” This is a really important question because owning your own business is hard. It will give you as much excitement and thrill as it does sleepless nights. Without a clear objective from the very beginning, you will get thrown from your path when the times are not all joyous and happy. AND THERE WILL BE THOSE TIMES. You will never know what and when they will hit, but trust me they will. And when they do, your clear objective (the one that is tucked away in your pocket on that napkin) will come out and give you a big sigh because you will know that the rocky stretch is just an opportunity to remind you that you are indeed a female entrepreneur and this is all part of the thrill.
Yes I said thrill. You are an entrepreneur right? The thrill is about knowing how to tame the chaos when it comes at you, to organize it, to go through it and be able to sleep at night knowing that you are the mistress of outcome because of that beautiful objective. And guess what, your objective can change over time. Remember, it is your business so you get to sculpt and mold and play with the dough however you want.
Establishing your objective is the why of the equation. Why do you want to do this? Sure money may be the first answer, but think about where that answer is coming from. When I first started my business I had to release all of the preconceived notions that were implanted in my brain by my grandfather’s definition of success. Once I released this, and it took me awhile, my own definition became clear as a bell.
For me it was to have my business run efficiently without my physical presence. This meant that I had freedom, time with my young son and a business that was positioned to have value without me. This way if and when I wanted to sell it, I wouldn’t be such a major part of the equation that I wouldn’t be able to get its true value if I didn’t come with the package.
This used to drive my grandfather crazy. He worked like 80 hours a week, so did my father. He couldn’t imagine that a business could run like this. But his objective was to make money, lots of money. He had to be in on every single moment to control outcome. My objective was more about time. Yes of course I wanted to make money, but that wasn’t my main driver. Mine was time for my son and my family and as my son grew and became less needy, I would change my work focus to accommodate and the money would come. Maybe not as much as if I was there 80 hours a week, but then I wouldn’t have enjoyed my business or my time as a mother. This is often where the fork in the road of male and female business ownership divides. I don’t know what it is to be a male business owner, my only experience was watching my grandfather and my father.
What I did witness was this, though: my grandfather had his wife taking care of the house and the kids and his life. Female entrepreneurs may have their partners support. Their partners may even stay home with the kids and the house as role reversals are so much more common these days. But most women I know are hard wired differently and life outside of work, kids, house, partners, family, usually occupy at least a part of their brains while they are working. I don’t know if this is as true for our male business owning counterparts. Women who own and run their own business and have families as well take on much more mental responsibility because of the guilt factor we bring on ourselves.
Are we missing our kid’s first steps, or his school play, t ball or dance recital? These thoughts are always around mom brain, at least they were for me and every single woman I know whether they were employees or employers. I see it with my team of 23 young women and all of their peers. Maybe it is a broad generalization but feminism and women’s liberation has only really influenced women in the workplace for the last 40 years, if that, and we still have a lot of work to do to get our cellular makeup to change if ever.
The way I see it is that someone needs to be thinking about all of the things that need to get done with our lives, our partners, our spaces we live in, or our children and if you have a partner at home that is doing this, awesome. I am willing to bet, though that even if you do, there are likely not too many moments where just a little guilt blasts into your radar a few times a day. So for the purpose of this guide, I am going to make some assumptions and give some scenarios about where you find yourself in your life right now. Every one of these needs a clear objective so take some time and brainstorm yours before you start writing your comprehensive business plan, before you look for financing. This seemingly little exercise will pay off big for all of your next steps.
POSSIBLE SCENARIOS: (I have probably not covered every single scenario, so if I have missed one, feel free to send a comment back to me and I will add it, pronto.)
- You are a single woman who relies solely on your own income.
- You are getting ready to graduate from college and you never wanted to be in the major you just completed, but your parents wanted that for you so you obliged.
- You don’t have children, but are going to want them at some point and you are thinking about starting your own business, establish your objective around the timing of this major decision.
- You have been diagnosed with something with your health giving you some time contemplate your remaining time on this planet.
- You are getting ready to get married or move in with someone.
- You never want children or a live in partner.
- You have a child and want more.
- You have children and are done.
- Your children are all grown and you are in your empty nest phase.
- You are ready for a second or third career. (being a stay at home mom counts as a career)
- You are married or sharing life responsibilities with someone and not working but want to start your own business.
- You are married or sharing life responsibilities and are working but are not the primary breadwinner.
- You are married or sharing life responsibilities and are working and are the primary breadwinner.
- You are getting ready to get divorced or are in the process of a divorce.
- You have been in a career that you want to get out of and have a supportive partner.
- You have been in a career that want to get out of and don’t have a supportive partner.
- You have unlimited amounts of support, money and time.
- You have unlimited amounts of support, but not much money.
You may want to start up a business but need to go back to school or get additional training, this part of the business start up process will follow in the next steps, but before you move on to anything else, you must begin with WHY so onward to the light my superchick entrepreneur.
WHAT IS YOUR OBJECTIVE?
WHY DO YOU WANT TO TAKE THIS LEAP FROM EMPLOYEE TO EMPLOYER (and yes, when you own your own business you will have employees: accountants, lawyers, vendors, for starters and YOU.)