This Entrepreneur’s Journey post is by Sharon Gilmour-Glover- She is an experienced consultant, speaker and teacher specializing in leadership, strategy and change management. Sharon is a Partner at Jump-Point and the creator of the business success program Clarity for the Boss.
Horses, Music, And School
I would love to say that becoming an entrepreneur was all part out of a well thought out master plan. Sadly, it wasn’t. I was one of those kids who had no ambition to be anything in particular. I loved to be outside. I loved horses. I loved farms. I loved music and singing. I didn’t seem to love anything useful or “job like”. I hated school.
I went to university only when I realised that I just wasn’t cut out to do just any job to support myself. I have to do work I like. My trouble was, I had no idea what I liked, let alone, loved. While at school, I found my first career and spent a fulfilling decade teaching outdoor and environmental education and leadership. I thought I would spend my entire working life in that field but, to my horror, I became bored and very, very frustrated.
For The Love Of Music
So I took the plunge, walked away from my stable, well-paying teaching job and its lovely pension, and worked as a singer-song writer for several years. While doing that I discovered that I loved the business side even more than the performing side. I loved trying to figure out how to get the music that people wanted, but wasn’t readily available into their hands.
I Hit A Jump-Point
Music ran its course and my husband, who had worked previously in business, became a consultant. I began to help him help his clients with implementation. After a few months it occurred to me that perhaps I had something of value to offer, so I started the business that became Jump-Point. My husband joined me just a few months later.
What I Feared
What I feared? Not knowing enough about business, not being able to figure out what, specifically, I could offer that had value. I was afraid of not being able to sell. I couldn’t see myself picking up the phone and cold calling people and getting a sale. These were all the rational fears I had. Or should I say, these represent the way I rationalised my fear.
In the end, I only had one fear; what if I’m not good enough? Just that. My only real fear was that I was somehow fatally flawed and no matter how much I tried or how hard I worked, as I am, what I am, who I am and what I have to offer, was just not good enough.
There are 2 kinds of obstacles, external and internal. The biggest external obstacle was a lack of network. Tim had shed his business past and I hadn’t worked in business. There was very little connection between our lives as musicians and this new business. My former circle of friends and acquaintances thought I had sold out and abandoned my values by working in business and we had moved to an area where we knew few people.
The bigger obstacles were the internal ones. Without realising it, while we called what we did “consulting”, our approach was actually not consulting in the most common understanding of what consulting is.
We fused our backgrounds – adult education and business – and came up with an approach that was unique and highly effective. We both lacked the confidence we needed to really know, deep down, beyond a doubt, that our approach worked and that we did have a valid alternative. For me, it took me 10 years and a gruelling turn around before I really accepted that and relaxed into it.
Neither my husband nor I are tactical sales and marketing people. Given our vision, it became critically important to get someone on board to help us with that. We had some success for a few years and then, we plateaued. We didn’t respond to that plateau fast enough and as a result, we reached the brink of disaster. We needed to step back, reflect deeply and decide if there was any value in trying to save the business, learn from our mistakes and enable it to thrive.
Our biggest success was that successful turnaround. It took 2 years and was the most difficult work I have ever done in my professional life. It was also completely worth it. Our business is thriving and our practice has deepened as a result of that journey. As a result, we are able to help our clients even more.
Key learnings/Advice to others
- Think carefully about who you share your dream with. You will have people around you who will try and keep you safe by holding you back. They will tell you to be reasonable and realistic. Don’t listen to them. They are talking about what they need, what they fear and what they feel they can do. That has nothing to do with you except that it probably mirrors your own fears and self-doubt. Share your dream with the people who can see your vision, who believe it’s achievable and who support you going for it. The others will be thrilled to help you celebrate your success once they see what you’ve accomplished and that it didn’t kill you.
- Do something you absolutely love and would do whether you could make money or not. I know that sounds trite but you can count on the fact that you will have to navigate tough times. You will come face-to-face with some of your demons. You need the resilience generated by deep passion to keep you moving.
- Celebrate the small wins. If you only celebrate the big wins, you will have less opportunity for celebrating and you probably won’t notice you are actually making headway and succeeding. You will also most certainly have less big wins to celebrate because big wins are created by smaller ones.
- Know that you are enough
- Screw “reasonable and realistic”. Give me the name of one successful entrepreneur who was reasonable.
My Future goals
Our vision is to be recognised leaders in world class new economy business education. So my future goals are all around that. We have recently launched the first of many online products, I look forward to meeting international colleagues face-to-face at conferences and gatherings of like-minded, forward thinking people and I am looking forward to spending an autumn in a villa in Tuscany.clarity for the boss, jump-point, new economy business education