I’ve been in business for 15 years – started in January 1995 about five minutes after the Social Development Commission made a disasterous pick for executive director, a woman who resigned two years later amid allegations of misappropriation of funds, lying about her credentials, a ton of stuff that confirmed my decision to boogie when I did. I resigned my job as Planning Director – a job that I loved and was very good at. It broke my heart to leave.
Because I had been in business before, I knew I could rev up the engine and get going again. I likened myself to Rockford, the private detective living in a Malibu trailer who printed up business cards in his car on his way to con someone into giving up some valuable info. I could do it all – planning, grantwriting, research, community involvement, all the things I loved doing. Yep. I could do it all and fry it up in a pan. And that’s pretty much what I’ve done.
So because I’ve been around a while, I get a lot of calls from people who’ve decided to become consultants. Usually, they’ve just been down-sized, are in a state of shock, and on the rebound, so to speak. They’re looking for a quick way to make it look like they chose to leave their job. If I know them or know the person who told them to call me, we’ll have coffee so they can “pick my brain,” one of my least favorite terms but people always seem to think it’s a nice thing to say. So I get asked lots of questions — usually the first is, “How much do you charge?” Followed by “How do you get business?” And, my favorite, “How hard do you have to work?”
Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, ever likes my answers. Sometimes they start telling me what they would do different. And I think, ok, as if. Nine times out of ten, I never hear from or about these folks again. Why? They find a job. Essentially they weren’t interested in the heavy lifting and unglamorous parts of running a business – the fact that while you might be master of your own ship, you’re likely to be the only person on the boat. They liked the idea of being on their own – the freedom, self-determination, and the huge fees they felt entitled to.
It’s kind of like getting married. There’s the idea of getting married and then there’s the day to day. Having a successful business, like having a successful marriage, is about playing the long game. It’s about being totally invested (not secretly considering options), optimistic, confident, and cheerful. In marriage, as in business, it helps to have a short memory and start over every day. In both marriage and business, you have to learn to quickly recover from failure and disappointment because the weight of those things can drown you. Deciding this is IT – that you are totally committed to a course of action, whether it’s marriage or business, frees you up to do wonderful things. For real. I can prove it with 15 years of a great business and 26 years of a really great marriage. Lucky to have both — but neither dropped from the sky. As my father would say, “successful people make their own luck.”