I think it’s fair to say that most people who know me would not consider me to be fearful or hesitant. I’m known as someone who is plain speaking and down to earth; outwardly I nearly always seem confident, even if that isn’t how I’m feeling on the inside. And yet, for a long time I let fear hold me back from starting my own business.
Most of my career was spent in retail – I kind of fell into it, as so many people do, and didn’t think to question it. I worked hard, pushed myself and chased after success without ever questioning what success meant to me. For a long time I enjoyed it; I worked with some great people and felt like I was making a difference. I convinced myself that I wanted to carry on building my career, and yet for a number of years I knew in my heart of hearts that wasn’t the case.
Eventually and without noticing it happening, I started to suffer from signs of stress – I struggled to get to sleep, felt tired all the time and lacked my normal drive and motivation. Rather than acknowledge it and ask for help, I responded by working to seem as if everything was OK. Resilience is all the rage, right?! What I found hardest to handle was feeling emotional a lot of the time. I’ve always been very level and calm, so I just didn’t recognise this person who felt tearful at the drop of a hat. It came to a head when I had to cut off a call to a work colleague blaming poor signal when in fact I had spontaneously burst into tears mid conversation.
Walking away from that job I started looking for something with less travel, figuring that if I had a better work-life balance everything would be OK. Pretty quickly, I realised that I felt uninspired by the jobs I was looking at and that the prospect of working in retail again didn’t light me up. I had always loved coaching my team and getting them to think for themselves, so the idea of training to be a coach really appealed. The idea of being self-employed and not having a regular stable income however, did not! It terrified me. As did the idea of setting up a business but not being able to make it work – what would people think of me then?
Despite continuing to look for an employed job, I booked myself onto a free taster day for a coach training programme (little realising what would follow from that one action). Partnered with the course tutor on the day, I couldn’t believe the power and impact that a single coaching session had on me. The idea of being able to do that for someone was incredible. Waking up the following morning I felt energised and as if a fog had been lifted. I knew I wanted to coach and for the first time it felt as if I could be brave enough to give it a go so I sat and made myself a plan. It still felt scary, but it also felt exciting.
A year down the line and I don’t regret it for a second. It hasn’t always been easy – at first I combined coaching with a temporary job in training and at times I have faffed and procrastinated with the best of them. I’ve had doubts but I’ve reminded myself that if other people can be successful in business then I can too – I just need to find a way. I love coaching, and seeing my clients take action and surprise themselves with the progress they make is the best feeling. I’m also learning to love the feeling of growing a business. I’ve been reminded how much I enjoy learning, and have been avidly reading and listening to books, audiobooks and podcasts about a whole range of business topics that I need to get my head around now I’m self-employed. And when I trace it back, it all started with one simple action that I had no real expectations of leading to anything more.
If you know you want to start your own business but you’re not sure how to make it happen, why not start with challenging yourself to take one simple action? It doesn’t have to be huge, scary, ‘making the leap’ type action – it could be a small, practical step. And if you’d like some company and encouragement from other people who are in the same boat, feel free to join me over in my Facebook community here.