As I walked downstairs, I couldn’t look back up at the office I’d given my heart and soul to for over 10 years. I’d decided to start my own business 12 months before and felt excited by the possibility, but now the thought of leaving the safe cocoon of the corporate world had me feeling empty, overwhelmed and afraid. Who knew you could have so many emotions at once? The committee in my head was full of questions:
‘What are you doing?’
‘How will you make it on your own?’
‘Where is that next pay cheque coming from?’
‘Do you have what it takes?’
Mind whirling, I got into my car in tears. On the radio, John Mayer’s voice was amplified, singing ‘Stop this train’. I took off down the driveway, the office getting smaller behind me, every kilometre bringing me closer to my next adventure.
My ‘why’ to change
Many of the people I worked with in the corporate world remain some of my closest friends. I loved the company, and still do. The leaders I had worked with – some amazing and some not-so-amazing – had given me experiences, lessons and gifts that still serve me. But deep down I knew I was ready to help people grow.
I had held senior sales and leadership roles in my corporate life. I knew the challenges of being a leader. During my last leadership role, I had spent every waking hour outside work studying coaching and neurolinguistic programming (NLP), among other things. I knew that I had something deeper to share with the world.
My dad was an entrepreneur and I’d always had that creative spirit, starting mini businesses as a teenager. Many people around me were not so supportive, warning of potential risk, but this made me even more determined. When self-doubt knocked at my door I flipped it by focusing on the opportunities to grow and learn.
I continued to read furiously, study at night, attend programs and coach anyone and anything; I think I even did a session with my dog, Jessie! I joined relevant associations and started my business initially coaching and mentoring executives one on one, growing as my clients grew.
Brave unknown change
It probably seems like everything was falling into place, but my husband and I were both self-employed – something I hadn’t taken into consideration when leaving my secure job.
I was still building my business and my husband was working 24/7 on knocking down an old house and developing two new dwellings. It felt like we were facing one issue after another. We were dodging bullets such as building objections, cash-flow issues and sleep deprivation, while I was trying to write IP, sell my programs and deliver them with my usual passion and commitment. My younger sister also became very ill with depression during this time, so we were in and out of hospitals giving her all the support that we could.
Due to us both being eternal optimists (plus a lot of hard work and family support), we got through. This time taught us both resilience, which has kept us strong through some pretty challenging times. It taught me that change requires sacrifice. Anyone who tells you running your own business is smooth sailing is either unaware or in denial.
I think being open to embracing what I call ‘unknown change’ with a focus on the ‘why’ of what we were both doing kept us motivated, enabling us to stay energised to overcome the obstacles (gifts) over those three years.
We could easily have resisted these changes and shut the building job down. I could have gone back to the corporate world. At times I was tempted, but my ‘why’ to start my own business was larger than my ‘why’ to go back to what was familiar and easy. Our next life chapter could have been comfortable and harmonious. Instead, we stayed focused on the reason for what we were doing and braved whatever was thrown at us.
Change brings opportunity
During this challenging time, I came across an opportunity to run a program helping jobseekers back into the workforce. This was not part of my plan, but a great opportunity to learn, contribute and earn an income to fund our properties and keep them afloat. Change can bring other unexpected opportunities, and running this program built me into the person I am today – both personally and professionally, as an educator.
The programs ran for 10 days, often in remote places such as far north Australia. As exhausting as they were, they were also rewarding and I ran them for over 15 months with extremely successful outcomes.
I have never been one to take anyone or anything for granted, but this experience took that belief to the next level. I learnt that people really do need to have a purpose, whether in life, in self or professionally. My purpose was to learn and grow by helping others grow. Seeing so many people get their lives back solidified my objectives in leaving the corporate world. I also realised first- hand that if you place people before progress, success will happen.
My business started to evolve and before long I was mentoring, coaching and running leadership and sales capability programs. Although the jobseeker training program ceased, I felt I had contributed to something bigger, which helped me stay focused on what I could control and influence.
We built the townhouses and moved in – a huge relief and such an exciting time. Call us crazy, but we hosted Christmas Day for 35 people two days after moving in. It is amazing how the hard times can dissipate once you achieve what you set out to do. I remind myself of this when going through changes that aren’t easy to accept or transition through. Remember, we can either resist or embrace change and it comes down to acceptance – knowing your why and building a strong support network.