How do you change from one business career to another? That was a question which came my way last week. Since I’ve done that, from small business accountant to entrepreneur coach, I thought I’d tell you how I did it.
In 1977 I accidentally started my own accountancy business. I sold it twenty years later in 1997. I’d had enough of it by then. I am a starter, not a manager, and I was ready for a new opportunity. I’d already diversified into owning a travel agency and I managed to dispose of both businesses at the same time.
I created a bit of space in my life to give me the time to work out how I wanted to express myself next. I’d been working with small business owners and I loved them (still do!) but I didn’t so much love doing their VAT returns and accounts. Although I can do both with my eyes shut, the clients find accounting very stressful and that would transfer itself to me. My boundaries weren’t in great shape way back then, I was a relative newbie to personal development.
I took three clients with me, ones where I felt I made a unique personal contribution. If I felt it could be done by any old accountant, I left them with the man who bought my business. Over the next decade those three clients crept up to fourteen (!) and in 2007 I put my foot down and said NO MORE. I found new accountant homes for all those clients who’d found their way to me for different reasons in that decade.
Accounting is such a useful skill to have that picking up clients is easy.
Actually, that’s an understatement. Understanding how business works and knowing first-hand the trials and tribulations of those who own small owner-operated businesses is quite a rare combination of skills and those were always in hot demand. It is still a struggle to say no and I often find myself helping out a friend with their sums still to this day if I’m not careful.
But I had created a lump sum of money and some time freedom and emotional space. Five years as it turned out, five years to explore everything which caught my eye. Wine tasting. Public speaking. Personal Development. Listening skills. Counselling. Honestly, I have forgotten the full range and variety of what I studied, much to the amusement of friends who loved to discover what course I was on this week and take the **** out of me for it. Who cares? Not me. I was on a mission to discover my next career.
I knew I wanted my business to be 100% virtual because I wanted to live at least part of the year overseas, and because it is much more efficient, efficiency being just one of my middle names. And I remember sitting in a swimming pool in France in the summer of 2002 and announcing that I wanted to find a way to earn my living in GBP but be able to spend it in Euros and Dollars. The financial world has changed a lot since then but the principle still holds, only now I don’t really care which currency I am paid in and things like PayPal make that easy for me to work with clients across the globe.
Of course, I could have earned my living by remote accounting. But by then it was too late. My clients enjoyed my personality and my visits far too much. Bummer.
Not long after that French holiday I returned to the UK and discovered coaching. I studied with two groups of teachers (Results from Australia and Coachville from the USA) and started putting into practice what I’d learned early in 2003. I kept my part-time accounting income until February 2007, see above, because almost no business you start doesn’t need you to have time and money in the form of savings or part-time income at your disposal until such time as it pays its own way.
That’s what I work out with my coaching clients on their first call now. How are you going to live while you get this new business off the ground? I worked part-time as an accountant for four years while I was doing that. And when I gave up the “day job” my income halved but I got all that time back with which to grow the coaching side. It’s a fine juggling act, perhaps especially so with coaching. I didn’t pick an easy second career by any means.
I am hovering on the brink of another change of career, from business coach to writer/broadcaster perhaps, and change seems normal and every day to me now, not something to be frightened of, something which is often foisted on us through no fault of our own as demand for our gifts and services waxes and wanes and as our desire to express ourselves through our work changes too.
Transition is the word which is often used in this context as you move from one way of earning your living to the next. You can jump and hope the net will appear as many will encourage you to do and as many I respect and admire go about it. Or you can do it in a way which is more measured and which feels safer to you, as I did. But come the day when you know you must make a change, it is scary either way. And yet, on that day, we know we have no choice. That was my NO MORE moment in February 2007. No regrets. Though it most definitely has not been easy, it has been possible.
What change or transition are you contemplating? Is it from the corporate world to becoming self-employed? Or have you made a choice in your business which is overdue for an upgrade because it has outlived its sense of fun or usefulness in your life and work?
Entrepreneurs get bored easily, we have a thirst for change. How are you planning to reinvent yourself I wonder?