Lessons learned - the first year
Updated: Mar 6
It’s been 365 days, plus a few more. On January 28, 2022, I said farewell to a marvelous job. My boss was amazing, the leadership inspiring, my co-workers supportive and my team hard-working. What could I possibly have been thinking? Oh my.
No doubt, many would shake their heads at this (and maybe some would even have shaky tummies). But there are those who felt this to be brave and courageous. Huh, it’s funny, I never really thought of this as being a brave decision, it was just something that I’ve been dreaming of for so many years, and it felt like the time to do it was now.
I chose the path of a consultant. I believe my practice is what some may consider a "blue ocean" (a blue ocean is an analogy for an unexplored market space).
Side note: What I specialize in is strategic marketing for credit unions. It’s a narrow field and one that I personally have not come across to any great extent (to date, I have found only 1 other business in Europe who does this). What I offer is highly specialized, with deep experience in key areas of the credit union industry. It is my belief that the vast majority of marketers for credit unions have not worked in the roles they are marketing. To me, that’s an edge - a unique differentiator I am proud to say I’ve done.
Over the year, I have had people reach out to me to ask about my journey and what it took to launch my own business. Today, I am going to share a few lessons I’ve learned in the last 365 days (plus a few more). Here goes, in no particular order.
Figure out how to structure your business. For me, I needed to understand the pros and cons of being incorporated vs. a sole proprietor. The lawyer doesn’t know everything involved in taxation that the accountant does, nor will your accountant know everything about setting up the legal documents. Talk to them both before making the decision.
Your financial planner is your friend. I worked with my financial planner to make sure I was in a place that could actually support my new dream. Working with a financial planner can help you see your situation with an unbiased view, and they bring loads of experience from helping others.
Can you afford to kick this off? Think of start-up costs - expenses like software, hardware, security, insurance, lawyer fees, accountant fees, etc. If you are thinking about going out on your own and you don’t have money to cover the kickoff, you’ll need to think about how to reach out to others to help (this could be investors like friends or family).
You need savings and a budget. Your income may reduce. Drastically. Be prepared to go without an income until your business is up and running, and even then you can experience times of drought. But, if you mind your savings and spend thoughtfully, you’d be surprised to learn what you really need vs. what you just wanted. Also have a mind-set that you are not too proud to pick up a job here and there to make ends meet if needed (just make sure that you don’t lose focus of your dream).
You are the ‘everything’. I went from a corporation where I had support from IT, HR, finance, sales, marketing, leadership….to now being all of these, wrapped up in one shiny bow. So much to learn. My specialization is marketing strategy, but now I also needed to know how to ensure that my computer and data are secure, how to set up an accounting system and remit payroll, how to run the marketing software along with the rules and implementation that my team used to do, how to be a salesperson (more on that later), how to cope with so many things, and how to continue to lead myself. Seriously, everything.
You are no longer a part of the ‘inner circle’. I really never thought of this ‘belonging’ before, but it became abundantly clear when I attended a conference last year, one which I had been to so many times before. When I was working for a financial services company, I had ease with connecting with other like-minded individuals. Now, I am serving those individuals and I would sense trepidation and even avoidance. It’s still me, I haven’t changed, but what I offer has. It was eye-opening with a very different lens to look through.
Sales isn’t for the faint of heart. I’d say that this is the most surprising challenge of all that I have encountered. If you were to ask me to make calls to promote you, I’d have zero problems with it, so it never even occurred to me that this would be tough. I’ve experienced hang-ups; not interested; can you just email me?; this isn’t a sales call, is it?; sure, I’ll get back to you; and no-shows for meetings. But, I have also experienced great conversations; I’ve helped several marketing leaders; and I am bolstered with excitement when I have those ah-ha’s from those I am speaking with. There are so many ups and downs in this. My recommendation is to be prepared to sell yourself (like a mini job interview for a position that hasn’t been posted, or maybe not even considered), take some training (personally, I like LinkedIn Learning) and write out those scripts for the calls. And as tough as it is, don’t take rejection personally. The wins will far outweigh the losses.
It’s your clock now. By far, the best part of what I now do is set when I work. I know that I am at my best in the early morning and lose major steam by midday. So, I structure my workweek to get the best out of me, in the most efficient way. I also allow myself grace – if I am spinning my wheels, I take a break, get outside, then back at it. Sometimes, I know that the day isn’t working, so I fold it in and flex my time and make it up - ensuring the work gets done on time and when I am at my best.
Learning has never been more important. No longer immersed in training courses offered by my employer or receiving information from peers relevant to my job, I needed to seek out connections and learning opportunities of my own. I took stock of what I knew and what I wanted to learn more about. I signed up for email newsletters, I listened to so many podcasts on marketing, I took online courses, I sought a Chartered Marketer designation, I expanded my LinkedIn network, and I took a certification course on digital marketing strategy. And that was just last year.
Don’t forget your north star. Keep your mind and heart on the key reasons why you are doing what you do. If you chose a blue ocean, like I did, it can be tough for your supporters to understand why you are not shifting gears and reaching out to a different market, maybe one they understand more. In my case, the different market I am often recommended to pursue is what I consider a red ocean. I recommend if this happens to you, listen to the ideas (that’s always important) and weigh out the pros and cons. Then you decide if changing lanes is the right choice for your new business.
In reflection, would I do it again? Yes. In a heartbeat, yes.
If you are considering stepping out on your own and would like to have a candid conversation with me about my experience, I would be honoured to meet with you.
Keep on being amazing,
With a drive to accomplish high-quality results, the marketing work Lyanne has spear-headed in business has been recognized and awarded nationally on several occasions. In addition to this, she proudly holds the Chartered Marketer designation through the Canadian Marketing Association.
After serving 28 years in corporate finance, she emboldened into new territory by striking up a business marketing consulting practice that exists to lighten the load of marketing leaders. Having been a leader in marketing, she appreciates the complexities of the job and the many demands that come with it.
Whether you are interested in learning more about how blue dragonfly can help your business, are interested in joining or learning more about Mastermind groups, would like to chat about a speaking engagement, or just want to meet with Lyanne, this is a great way to get started. Connect today.
Cheers to the beginning of a great relationship.