Sunday, March 26, 2006

Why did you start your business?

Did you see a need that wasn't being addressed? Were you following a passion? Or were you just plain disgruntled with life in the fast lane, and decided to get off?

I've just started to read Barbara Moses' new book - DISH - Midlife Women Tell the Truth About Work, Relationships and the Rest of Life. It's a fascinating read. Barbara surveyed hundreds of women and asked her "nosy" questions - her word, not mine, to get the scoop on how women in midlife are feeling about their lives.

You get the sense she's truly captured what is reality for many women working in the corporate world, where they have to wear a mask, play the game and juggle... fast. She describes so many women who are unfulfilled, unhappy at work and at home; and who feel trapped and unable to break this pattern. It's sad.

Being authentic becomes more crucial as we enter our 40s +. Our work and our values must fit. Reading the book reminded me of why I started my business. I was working for government at the time, focusing on women's issues. I'd just received an award and part of the prize was to attend this conference in Denver. One of the speakers, Bonnie St. Jean Dean, spoke eloquently about being authentic and her words hit home. I realized I wasn't a bureaucrat and no matter how I pretzled myself, I could never fit that mold.

However, just as we were leaving the conference, I got a call from my daughter. My mother had had a stroke and they didn't think she would make it. All of a sudden nothing else mattered. I had to get to England as quickly as possible. She lived on a small island, so it was not a quick or easy trip. It was touch and go, but amazingly she pulled through. It was quite the emotional roller coaster, and I returned to Canada drained and changed by the experience.

Suddenly life seemed too fragile, too precious to be spent working where I didn't feel I was contributing in a meaningful way. Between Bonnie's words and my mother's brush with death, I realized life was too short to be working where I didn't belong. So I left and started my own consulting business. And the rest, as they say, is history. I love what I do and I don't think I could ever go back to working for someone else. I am too used to being in charge, and I like it.

When Barbara Moses asked women where they can be most authentic and happy? About 80 per cent of the women said self employment. However, when she dug deeper, it was clear, as many of us know, working for yourself is not for everyone, and for some women who uprooted themselves from the corporate arena, the adjustment was hard. As she points out women "who have had a long corporate career are unaccustomed to the lack of structure, taking risks, hustling to make a buck..."

When I give workshops on surviving the first year in business, I am often asked how do you find balance, and my response has always been - you don't. Certainly not in your first year when you're establishing your business.

But then, when it's your passion, it doesn't feel like work.

So what's your story? What propelled you into the world of entrepreneurism?

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