How to start your own business

Wendy Kerr, director of the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, gives advice on how you can become your own boss.

Why do women make the move?

I’ve interviewed more than 100 women about why they left their jobs to start their own business, and a strong pattern emerged from all of them. It goes like this: A woman starts to feel unhappy in her work, and disenfranchised by the culture.
Typically, when this dissatisfaction starts to grow, a life event has happened – either they got very sick, a partner or parent became ill and died, they got divorced, or they had a birthday (which, interestingly, is often 40), or they had a child.
And they start to look at their world and their work quite differently. They want more control, freedom and flexibility in their lives.

What can you expect?

I did a study before I started my business, Corporate Crossovers, which was based on a quantitative piece of research from 300 corporate crossovers in the US and the UK. And there were three astonishing results from it.
The first was 68 per cent of these women make less in their own business than they did in their last job, yet the second result was all of them still said they would not return to their previous work because they loved the flexibility and control they had.
The third fascinating result was only one per cent cited the glass ceiling as the reason they left corporate. They decided to leave as they had had enough of the culture and they wanted to work in a way which really worked for them.

The three things you need to start your own business

The transition

Many people who leave a job to start a business initially grieve the loss of their old life. To help clients with this, I devised a seven-stage model for the corporate crossover transition.
1 The first process is ‘Anticipation’. They’re excited to leave their job and think ‘I’m going to create my own path’.
2 Then the ‘Reality’ sets in, because they don’t have to get up and go to work any more. They might not get out of their pyjamas before noon. But with this they start to realise there is a big to-do list they have to complete to start their own business, and there is no money coming in.
3 Then they move into ‘Shock’. They start to feel very isolated because they may not have workmates, and the shock is that they realise their success is completely up to them.
4 Then comes ‘Slump’. They lose energy and motivation, and they start to think ‘Is this it? Should I get real and get a job, or do I push this along and make it work?’ This is the danger period for these corporate crossovers who may skip back and get a job.
5 However, once they’ve got through that, they move into the next stage: ‘Adjustment’. They have started to create a network around themselves who support them and they have also started to get some wins.
6 They then move into ‘Momentum’. This is the phase where they start to understand what this is all about. They have got used to the peaks and the troughs of the income, they can talk about themselves confidently, and their identity is much more closely aligned with what they are doing now. Most importantly, they start to view themselves as a success.
7 Lastly, they get through it all, they are completely ‘Committed’, and they say: ‘I could never imagine going back to what I used to do. I love the work I do and I accept the money for what it is.’

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