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Are You A Reluctant Entrepreneur?

Reluctant EntreprenuerI’m going to share with you two tales of reluctant entrepreneurs. One is a tale of caution, the other a tale of optimism. Then I’ll ask you to choose your own adventure!

I do wonder if you’ll recognise yourself at all.

A Tale Of Caution

I met a woman, Mary, at the Institute of Management Consultants conference in Melbourne a little while back. Mary had been a senior team leader for a big information technology company, and in the recent past had led the same high performing team for the past five years.

She was good at what she did. She diligently managed her team, consistently appraised them and recommended them for pay rises.

She noticed that their pay rates were getting higher than hers. But she waited. She knew that she was good at her job, and that the rewards would come.

The HR Director accidentally sent her a report with all of the salaries of her peer level, with commentary. I know, right. What were they thinking? Seriously.

She had already been aware that her team was approaching or above her own remuneration, her male peers were being paid very significantly higher than herself. One peer was slightly more than double. And in the commentary box for her own salary was a note: “Excellent performer. Has not asked for a salary increase.”

Her words were, “I couldn’t believe that they didn’t acknowledge and reward the contribution I was making.

I can’t tell you how upset Mary was, her eyes visibly filling with tears as she decried the injustice.

Whilst my heart was aching for Mary, I asked her why she hadn’t asked for a pay increase.

“Why should I have to ask for it? Why shouldn’t it just come if I do a good job?”

Mary explained how she had left that company a month later, and she was now going to set herself up as a consultant in the same IT space.  She didn’t want to, but she couldn’t see how she could have stayed with the same company, and at 52, found that she was too old to interview successfully with other companies.

I asked her where she would find her clients.

She didn’t know and was terrified to speak with strangers. But she also didn’t want to do business development because it would take up too much time from doing the work. She hadn’t been to any networking events with prospective clients, and she’d called only one contact in her network to let them know she was available. At this stage, she had more time than clients.


A Tale of Optimism

I met another woman, Susan, at a Bondi Business Chamber networking event. It’s not really her place now, but she was supporting a friend who was just starting out.

She had been a middle-senior team leader for an American Consumer Goods Products. She had proactively managed her career, had been an expat, and now back in Australia, led the expansion of multiple global brands over a lot of different countries. After a difficult pregnancy, she accepted a redundancy on maternity leave.

She’d spoken to other people who had been offered a redundancy, and learnt that her particular company cared more about getting it wrapped up within a particular timeframe rather than the actual amount. So she hired a gun lawyer to maximise her payout.

“I didn’t want to leave, but given the writing was on the wall, it didn’t make sense to try to cling on. So I decided to leave on my terms.”

Susan decided to set up as a consultant, and despite not knowing any potential clients, started networking. She learned that she needed to go to a couple of events per week to get her name out there. And it took a couple of month to figure out which were the right events to go to.

She started to meet people, but had no idea how to get those people to sign up to work with her. So she learned how to talk about her services in a way that resonated for her clients. And she learned how to set her fees. And now she has a waiting list for her marketing consulting business.

I asked her what made her so motivated.

“I realised that I could stay at home and wait for the phone to ring. Or I could get out there and make it happen. I didn’t want to be passive. It’s not my style!”

She’d learned so much over her professional career, and realised that business development was just another skill to learn. She had a very specific niche and was working it with great intention.

Choose Your Own Adventure

A lot of women who have set up their own consultancy or service-based business didn’t actively set out with the intention of doing so.

Especially if they had a seemingly stable and predictable career path in a corporate or larger organisational environment.

A few women left this environment and intentionally and deliberately carved out a plan and a niche, and set forth on their entrepreneurial journey.

But most are reluctant entrepreneurs.

They established their business after it became untenable to stay where they were. Perhaps a redundancy, or a need to leave a particular company and at a certain age, discovering the difficulty to find a new position.

No Matter What…

Everyone predicts their own future.

You can be passive or active about it.

The locus of control always lies in you if you want it to.

Those who proactively manage their outcome figure out the first step they need to take, and then they just take it. They claim their place in the world. They are more likely to get the rewards.

Others passively wait for the world to anoint them. And quite often, it just doesn’t happen.

What future would you like? And what’s the next brave step you need to take to get there?

Good luck!

Abbie x


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