A lot of people ask me what it’s like starting a business.
When you’re feeling trapped in a full-time, full on job or at home looking after your family, being your own boss can seem like a golden ticket to flexibility and balance.
I get it! It’s exactly what I did when Vic and I started Beam. And let me tell you, I LOVE it and I wouldn’t go back. But I do miss the certainty — and yes, the paycheck — of corporate life. For a long time, working for big, iconic companies was the right fit for me. It gave me confidence, as well as financial independence, and made me feel like I was kicking some goals.
Then one day, I couldn’t devote my entire life to it. As I had one then two babies, I tried to keep it up – which meant giving up my entire waking life to the job, then my entire (supposedly) sleeping life to my babies. It. Ran. Me. Into. The. Ground.
My body just stopped working and finally, I admitted defeat. It’s a common story. Many people opt out when they reach breaking point one way or another — an illness, a key moment they miss in their children’s life, a sick parent, a relationship that suffers, or a sacrifice of their passion.
BUT. Is the grass greener really greener over in entrepreneur land? Will it suit you?
Here’s what I’ve learned about starting my own business.
1. You have to make friends with uncertainty
Working for big companies definitely has big perks: the pride in landing a job with a well-known brand, the smooth processes, the predictability, the financial security, the clearly laid path to bigger and better roles.
When you work for yourself, no day is the same…but on the bright side, no day is the same!
2. The highs are higher and the lows are lower
When you’re running your own business, it’s a rollercoaster and the stakes feel high. At Beam, we call it the Mare to Miracle rollercoaster! The highs are huge – if we influence an organisation to do things differently, we are pumped! If we find someone a great part-time role, we are pumped! If we get a lovely heartfelt message from basically anyone, we might cry with delight. But when something goes wrong, it’s deeply personal. Of course, it is intense and the pressure can be huge in corporate but somehow I didn’t feel the same extremes. Maybe the difference is that the pressure IS big in corporate but the losses FEEL big in start-up land.
3. It’s on your shoulders
It’s on you. The sales, the product, the costs, the staff, their happiness, the admin. The buck literally stops here. A disappointed customer is a shot to the heart. A happy one however…feels like a million dollars.
The boss cares about you more than a company ever could… but can she be kind to herself?
I’m not at the mercy of the machine anymore. I’m not working at a public company for the short-term gains that satisfy shareholders. I’m not accountable to partners who want to maximise billable hours or a fully funded start-up that wants to see exponential growth.
In theory, when you’re your own boss, you set the tone, the pace, the expectations. In reality, though, your expectations of yourself are probably well higher than anyone else’s of you. So when you’re your own boss, it’s hard to look at any given day and say, ‘well done’, ‘job done’. (Even though you should!)
4. There is more flexibility and less guilt (even though there’s more work)
Because your work hours aren’t defined by someone else, you can make school assembly, be there for your friend who needs you that day, take the day if your child is sick, help your elderly parent move house, or take a pilates class at 11am. And it’s guilt-free. (insert sigh of relief!) But the reality is that if your business is going even a little bit well, you’re probably not going to prioritise that pilates class because your job literally never stops and even if you make school pick up and drop off every day you might just have to work into the wee hours to compensate.
5. Do you like getting paid?
There’s a lot to be said for security – it’s the foundation of Maslow’s hierarchy after all. Winning a great role in Corporate is a big deal and you’ll get paid handsomely for the experience, skills, and value you bring. When you start your own gig – you get paid on outcomes only!
6. Do you like hustling?
Start-up life is fast and furious, it’s scrappy and requires serious hustle. The excitement of creating something gives you an adrenaline boost. But once it wears off, to challenge the status quo and ride out the lows of the roller-coaster, I really believe you need to have a deep belief in what you’re doing – to have a purpose that continues to drive you.
7. You can do something you believe in
When you build something that’s your own, you can choose what you do, how you do it, and what is important on the journey. I had a moment last week where I had spent the day with Vic and our awesome team, and had met two inspiring business leaders – Jocelyn who’s the CEO of First Australian Capital, and Ingrid who’s the HRD for Microsoft Australia / Fiona who’s the Director at Jobs for New South Wales. I am honestly overwhelmed with the people I get to hang out with every day. I believe deeply in the need to completely transform the way we work – to even out the distribution of work – to pull back on over-employment, to increase work options for under-employed, and to normalise outcomes-based, sustainable work for everyone. This is what drives me and feeds my soul, pushes my thinking and keeps me learning.
I do happen to think there’s a third way. Which is why we started Beam.
Can big corporates provide some of the big perks of entrepreneurship? We think so – flexibility, autonomy, an outcomes-focus and sense of purpose are all within reach.
Beam Australia is an online marketplace matching highly experienced parents looking to step back into the workforce, with businesses who value and need their skills. If you’re after a flexible part-time role that you can do while your children are at school without having to down-skill, and most importantly, want to work for a company that is aligned with your values (or a business that needs experienced staff) get in touch with Stephanie and Victoria below.