The Big Leap: From Corporate to Start-up

My favourite kind of work, is working with women who want to leave corporate and start their own business.

I love it because it’s a totally baller move and I have complete admiration and empathy for how bloody hard it is to do.

I also know the potential for freedom, creativity, wealth and adventure.

It’s Christmas, we’re all exhausted and some of us are peering into what 2023 might hold. I wanted to share some of my ‘things I wish I’d known’ for anyone who has business ownership as a twinkle in their eye in 2023.

No 1. Dip a toe in sure, but then you have to jump

When I first started a business it was because I’d wanted to move back to the UK from Asia and I lost my corporate role. So there was a natural push.

That time around it really was ‘freelancing with a brand’. I was a strategist and so getting strategy work wasn’t hard. I set up a strategy agency, but there wasn’t a business plan or even long term aspirations for the business. If I’m honest, it was a nice stop-gap and I loved my branding.

When I started The Wild Ones I dropped the strategy work like a hot potato and went all-in on day one. I trusted my instinct.

I’m a single-mum, I have a fair amount of expenses and a penchant for expensive skincare. It sounds brave, in retrospect it was crazy-town. It put so much pressure on me and on the business. A better approach would have been to do a 50:50 split with the strategy work and test the waters — this is what I advise my clients.

However, the caveat is… I think once you have a minimum viable product (i.e. you’ve proven there’s a market for the services you provide and you have enough to make a start) you really just have to jump. Otherwise what are you waiting for?

Making the jump is a game-changer. It makes you a business owner overnight and you’re forced to start thinking like one. You have to make success a non-negotiable and it changes your energy.

No 2. Work on your identity, not just the logistics of business set-up

I hear so many start-ups talk about ‘getting the business going, before they’ll worry about coaching / mentorship / investing in themselves.’ I totally get how hard it is to prioritise this, but it’s a fact that the business doesn’t grow beyond your capacity.

As you work on your own personal expansion and identity, first as an actual business owner, then as a CEO of a business, as a 6-figure or 7-figure earner… you’re giving your business the space to grow into, because you show-up in a different way and you make decisions from a different place.

Expansion will be about your relationship with money, the level of success you believe is possible for you, with visibility and building a profile. We all have our own natural ‘upper limits’ in these spaces and they’re usually based on pretty outdated beliefs about ourselves. They need stretching.

How you view yourself is everything. It’s the lever that has most contributed to my business growing in different ways over the years.

No 3. Remind yourself that starting a business does not mean ‘starting again’

You might be a new coach, therapist, influencer, personal trainer but you are not a new human. You aren’t starting again because you likely already have 5, 10, 20+ years of work experiences, skills, strengths and also life experience.

Use all of this when you’re building your brand, both for the business and personally and (especially when) you are thinking about pricing.

Your value is rarely about the amount of training courses and certificates you own, but about what you stand for, the value of the transformation you provide and how ‘you’ do it.

Get clear on it, craft it into your brand and business positioning and wortk on really believing it.

No 4. Let your business idea evolve

I think it can be tempting to want to create something perfect and then launch it from the start. The perfect brand, positioning, product offering — but honestly, it’ll evolve as you properly get into the work. If you’re too set on what you start with, changes will slow you down.

If you start things being open to learning, you get to redefine and re-craft as you go and you’ll be much more agile.

Where you end up at the end of year 1, year 2 and beyond, will almost certainly look very different to what you started with and that’s great. It means you’ve been properly listening to your customers and you’re creating a brand, a service, an offering that is rooted in people’s needs.

This mindset also lowers the bar on getting started.

No 5. Build a brand, not just a business

Branding, in the true strategic sense, beyond the visual identity and logo, is my thing. And I absolutely believe in the power of it for start-ups.

The norm in my industry is just to put ‘coaching’ after your name and to have a fiddle on Canva and that’s fine, especially at the start. But you still need to think about your positioning, tone of voice, how you want your brand to behave, what sense of belonging this brings your clients.

This is the secret sauce that elevates everything you do, guides you on the kinds of services and products you create and that makes you noisy and differentiated in saturated markets. It is very powerful to get right.

I also think when times are tough and you’re thinking “shall I just go and get a proper job?” It’s harder to walk away from a brand, than from a more disparate set of services you’ve created.

No 6. Block out the noise

This is a more general life lesson, but especially when you first start a business, you’re probably more than a little obsessed with what your competitors are doing and how they’re doing it.

They are a great source of learning, but the algorithm on socials will mainline you to this content if you’re not careful and it’ll derail you over time.

Give yourself some ‘competitive audit’ days where you take a look at socials and websites and you structure your findings into a ‘so what?’ for your business. Even better, use this insight to understand the conventions of the category, so that you can set about doing things differently, because why not?

Follow no more than 1–2 mentors / sources of inspiration.

No. 7 Obsess over nurturing your energy

Self-care is great and you should definitely do it, but managing your energy and seeing it as a finite resource is everything. When you choose not to use it here, you get to use it more there…

That means being hyper vigilant about where you invest it, prioritising the needle-movers, the energisers and minimising the drains.

It also means not trying to do it all alone and so building the support network you need and on days you just aren’t feeling it, do something else.

You didn’t start a business to be chained to your desk. Live the life you want to create now, don’t wait for permission.

December 8, 2022


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