For fifteen years, I was an employee, and yet I spent nearly every waking moment with business owners. My job was to serve entrepreneurs, help them build their businesses, and show them marketing and networking techniques to grow their company and personal brands. But I didn’t want to be one of them.
People would ask me, “When are you going into business for yourself?”
“Never!” I would laugh, “I know too many business owners.”
They’d usually look crestfallen and mumble, “Well, you’d be great at it.”
I didn’t believe them. I was happy being an employee. Let me focus on what I’m great at, I thought. I’ll do the cool work without having to worry about taxes, or accounting, or payroll, or all that “tedious” stuff entrepreneurs have to deal with.
Then, I lost my job. It was a cool job, working for a driven, visionary, business owner. I’ve never had anyone so sorry to fire me, but it was entirely a financial decision and there wasn’t much I could have done to prevent it.
Now what? I started my job search confident that my networking skills would find something just as great, for a company that had the same drive, where I would be doing and creating cool stuff every day. I made one Facebook post and with that got a consulting client and a temporary position as an interim campaign manager. My networking-fu was still strong.
See, I had a “side-hustle.” I was a published author and business speaker. But I didn’t quite believe that could be a full-time gig. Traveling is hard and you’ve got to be a real road warrior to make it work, so that wasn’t something I considered. I was also a branding and SEO expert, which I used to build my network and my reputation as a networker, but I hadn’t considered making that a business either.
So I continued my job search, finding myself less and less inspired by the opportunities I was finding. Then, during a “let’s connect” lunch, one of my “weak ties” told me I had all the tools necessary to be a very successful entrepreneur. She so clearly believed it, I could SEE what she was seeing.
Something clicked. I started talking to my network of entrepreneurs. Did they think I could be a successful business owner? Did I have the skills, the drive, and the vision to make it happen? More importantly, did I have the right people around me who were willing to encourage and guide me into success? Yes, I did.
The decision was made. My network had convinced me. Not with their words. Several of them took the time to remind me how hard it was and to be certain I wanted to do it. But I saw how happy and fulfilled they were, even when they had problems or struggles. They were in a position I wanted to be in.
One of the most important things you can do to be successful is surround yourself with the right people. People who are encouraging but realistic. People who are doing what you’re doing, just a little better. People who are role models and coaches.
Next time someone asks me why I went into business for myself, I’ll say, “My network made me do it.”
This article was contributed by Beth Bridges, author of “Networking on Purpose: A Five-Part Success Plan to Build a Powerful & Profitable Business Network.” She has attended over 2600 networking events in the last 14 years. She’s also training to be a nationally competitive Master’s track runner.